Monday, July 18, 2011

The People's Champion! Darren Clarke wins the 2011 Open Championship

After catching bits and pieces of the 3rd round action on Saturday night, I fell asleep with no clue as to who could win the most coveted trophy in golf. Going into the final round yesterday it seemed like the weather would again play a major part in separating the good, the bad, and the ugly. But without a doubt, there were moments where the players made some magic shots in spite of the challenging conditions at Royal St George's.

Darren Clarke, leader after 3 rounds. Pic: AllSports

Royal St George's. Pic: Getty Images

pic: Getty Images

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke began the round at 5 under par, one stroke ahead of Dustin Johnson. It was a lead he never really lost. Although many of his challengers put on a determined fight, including Phil Mickelson who capitalised quickly to briefly share the lead at 7 under with Clarke, a short miss on the 11th hole proved to be the downward turning point that Phil couldn't recover from. 

2nd place Phil Mickelson. Pic: Getty Images

The other Americans in the hunt were Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson, both of whom were unable to provide any real challenge. Fowler had 12 pars over 12 holes, which was pretty amazing in itself, but was not enough to bother the leaders. And when Dustin Johnson sliced his approach shot out of bounds on the 14th hole, you knew it was going to be an easy win for Clarke. After twenty attempts (yes, 20), 42-year old Darren Clarke was crowned Champion Golfer of 2011.

DC celebrates on the 18th green

pics: Reuters
The real story here is that this was a very popular win. In fact I'm understating it...this win was HUGE, and not just because it was another European victory. This was a story of a man who had been through many ups and downs in his personal life: he had dealt with the death of his wife due to breast cancer, and had labored to rebuild his golfing career after those tragic events...and he triumphed on the greatest stage in golf. He won the big one! Every sportsman wants to win a major title, and Darren Clarke had never won one before. This win was LONG overdue.

pic: Getty Images
So I had to stay up and watch it til the very end. And I'm glad I did, because seeing someone who deserves good things receive them is a great feeling. It was incredible learning about just how long Darren Clarke had waited to hold the Claret Jug. It was even better seeing his hold it. I mean, he's played in this tournament twenty times!! I don't think I've tried anything twenty times before! So congratulations to Darren Clarke on winning the 140th Open Championship. 

pic: Reuters
Another significant fact about Darren's win is that the relatively small nation of Northern Ireland now has three major champions. After Rory McIlroy's win at the 2011 US Open last month, which succeeds fellow countryman Graeme McDowell's 2010 US Open win, one wonders how many more these guys can pick up. What an incredible couple of years it has been for the Northern Irish.   

There was one thing I was a little sad about though. I had met Darren when he was playing in the 2009 Maybank Malaysian Open here in KL. He said hello to me as he was getting into the car back to his hotel. I really regret not asking for his autograph at the time. Now that he's a major champion, man that would've been one autograph to have!! AAaAarrrghhh!

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