Darren Clarke Captures His First Major Title at the 2011 British Open
The (Northern) Irish eyes have certainly been smiling on the golf world lately. In the last calender year three different men from the small nation of under 2,000,000 people have hoisted major trophies. It started with Graeme McDowell at the 2010 U.S. Open. Rory McIlroy lapped the field at the 2011 U.S. Open.
Today 42 year old Darren Clarke became the most unlikely Northern Irishman to join the club with his win at the British Open. Clarke didn't come out of obscurity to capture the Claret Jug like Louis Oosthuizen did last year. Nevertheless, his victory was unexpected.
Clarke is no stranger to contending in major championships, but his best days appeared behind him. Clarke had been a top 10 player in the world. Like many great players in their 30s and early 40s, his prime coincided with Tiger Woods domination of golf. Clarke had his moments of greatness, but could never break through in a major. He came tantalizingly close in 1997. If not for Justin Leonard's brilliant 65 in the final round of the 1997 British Open, Clarke may have won at Troon.
Clarke was showing signs of returning to form, but he was on nobody's radar entering the week. Clarke's countryman Rory McIlroy was the bookmakers' favorite. Many people speculated if it wasn't Rory it would be another young gun.
Clarke didn't do anything spectacular to win this championship. He was simply the best ball striker and smartest player all week. If not for some putting woes on Saturday he may have lapped the field. The win was vintage Darren Clarke. It wasn't flashy, it was workmanlike.
Suffice it to say, there may be a few pints of Guinness flowing in Northern Ireland this evening.