Darren Clarke struck out a note for compulsive eaters and smokers everywhere by winning golf’s third major of the year, the British Open. Clarke’s home country, Northern Ireland, is benefiting more than most from Tiger Woods’ infidelities. If Rory McIlroy hadn’t balls’ed up the Masters so spectacularly this small corner of the United Kingdom would hold all three of 2011’s majors played so far.
Like McIlroy at the US Open last month, Clarke led from the front and never looked like relinquishing the slender lead he took into the final day. The rain and wind at Royal St Georges continued to claim victim after victim. When it was all said and done a mere four players stayed below par for the tournament. Earlier it had looked as if Phil Mickelson might seal his first major triumph outside of North America. The North American challenge of Phil, alongside Dustin Johnson, fell by the wayside as they became victims of the elements.
That’s not to take away from the USA. Their younger players, in the shape of Rickie Fowler, Johnson and Anthony Kim, were there when it mattered at the end of Sunday. It can only be a matter of time until they wrest back the mantel from the Northern Irishmen.
42-year-old Clarke deserves his moment in the limelight though. Playing in his 20th Open, he became the first player from the UK to win the trophy since Paul Lawrie in 1999. The man from Dungannon will tell anyone who’ll listen that he plays his best golf when he’s bursting out of that old pair of jeans at the back of the closet. Add that he likes a good night out and we’re wondering why he didn’t attend the CalvinAyre.com Seven Deadly Sins party in May?!
The current crop of major winners does go to show that there’s life after Tiger after all. The question remains as to what will happen when Woods comes to reclaim his turf.