by Jeff Skinner
The Open Championship is a fickle beast. As seen by today’s final round with alternating sun and rain and wind and more rain and more sun, it tested the golfers’ patience and ability to focus on their tasks at hand.
Darren Clarke had little problem with the elements, the course or his competitors as he steadily worked his way around Royal St. Georges to finish at five under par and claim the Open Championship. The Claret Jug is Clarke’s and it soon will be filled with a variety of beverages to celebrate the biggest moment of Clarke’s career.
Clarke faced early challenges by a surging Phil Mickelson who went five under par through his first seven holes and tied Clarke at five under. But Clarke made an eagle of his own at the seventh and from there he looked to be the chosen one.
The golf gods seemed to be shining their favorable light on Clarke’s ball as his bounces were good and when they weren’t he found a way to get it up and down for par to hold his lead over these windswept links. Clarke’s only other real challenger was Dustin Johnson but a double bogey on fourteen doomed Johnson‘s chances and gave the Northern Irishman clear sailing and a four stroke lead with four to play.
It is Clarke’s first major championship and it caps a career of ups and downs both professionally and personally. Clare, 42, has always been a favorite of both European and American golf fans.
Early in his career he kept fast company with buddy Lee Westwood and could always be counted on for a laugh and a good party. But his life took a serious change in 2006 when his wife Heather lost her battle with cancer. Clarke was a Captain’s Pick for the Ryder Cup at The K Club that year and in what was in my opinion the most emotional moment in Ryder Cup history, he sunk the clinching putt to the cheers and tears of fans across the world.
Clarke has been in the midst of a career resurgence. He has a win on The European Tour earlier this year and has moved back to Northern Ireland to focus on golf and family. His good friend and countryman, Graeme McDowell set him up on a date with the woman he is now engaged to and he is comfortable with his game and his life.
Major championships are always special, no matter who wins them but this one must rank right up there with the best of them. Watching a man as beloved as Clarke, to come back from his personal devastation to claim this championship is amazing. To say this is an emotional win is an understatement.
Clarke’s win is more than just a golf victory. It is a victory of the human spirit. Facing a painful, personal crisis and overcoming his troubles to get his life together off the course was the great victory for Darren Clarke. Today’s win is the icing on the cake and shows that good things can still happen to good people no matter how bad their life may seem sometimes.
Darren Clarke is good people and today he’s The Champion Golfer of the Year. Bravo Darren, it can’t get more emotional than this.