Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

The Punter: Darren Clarke out of this world

British Open Championship winner Darren Clarke returns to his adopted hometown club, Royal Portrush
British Open Championship winner Darren Clarke returns to his adopted hometown club, Royal Portrush
British Open Championship winner Darren Clarke returns to his adopted hometown club, Royal Portrush

If anyone had wanted a bet on back-to-back majors coming to Northern Ireland in the same year, they could have named their own price. It would never have been considered by any serious punter.

Prior to Sandwich, if it had been known that the Claret Jug would make the journey to the province for the first time since Fred Daly brought it back in 1947, then Rory McIlroy would have been odds-on instead of 8-1.

Rory was all the rage after his US Open victory and Darren Clarke was not even on the horizon, despite having won in Spain six weeks earlier.

But it was 200-1 outsider Clarke who became superman in Kent.

The 42-year-old Moygashel man, who likes his Guinness and cigars, is the antithesis of what's expected in the fitness image stakes, while his temperament got the better of him in the past as seen at Troon in 1997 when blowing his previous best chance of Open glory.

Darren's major opportunities, it was assumed, were over after 20 years of trying to win one. He had experienced great success as a Ryder Cup team player and beat Tiger Woods in the World Match-Play 11 years ago. But a 'big four' triumph was considered long gone.

However, he now has a smile as broad as the Pacific Ocean and rightly so after dazzler Darren proved everyone wrong by keeping the faith in his own ability. He won't care if he never wins another tournament in his life and why should he?

What 'Big D', Rory and Graeme McDowell have done for golf here, and sport in general, is immeasurable.

Rory heads the market for the USPGA in Georgia next month (9-1) with Clarkey 70-1 and Graeme McDowell at 40s. A Northern Ireland winner is only 6-1 and if that happens, then all the Yanks will be making a bee-line here to breathe in some of that Northern Ireland magic!

Darren can be taken at |66-1 to defend his title at Royal Lytham in 12 months time while he's the new fancy at a very short 8-15 for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Incredibly, only a few weeks ago Rory was considered a certainty but has now been pushed out to 7-4.

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood are as big as 75-1 and both are worth a small interest just in case one of them comes up trumps in Georgia to add to their number one and two world rankings.

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