British Open consolation will do for Clarke after Scottish Open runner-up spot
It wasn't pretty and he didn't capture the tournament but Darren Clarke earned what he described the ‘consolation prize' of a tee time in this week's Open Championship at St Andrews.
Clarke dropped three shots within the space of two holes very early in his Barclays Scottish Open final round that sent him tumbling off the Loch Lomond high road before eventually ending in second place three strokes behind Italy's Edoardo Molinari.
Molinari carded a closing round 74 for a 12-under par tally to capture his first Race to Dubai victory along with the €602,000 first prize cheque.
Clarke's second runners-up finish this season earned him entry into golf's oldest Major by finishing the leading player in the Loch Lomond top-five, and who was not already exempt into St Andrews.
Clarke's troubles began at the par four second hole when he missed a par putt from eight feet.
However that was not nearly as dramatic as what unfolded par five, third-hole named ‘Garden Cottage' with his foundations of a first victory in nearly two years shattered under the weight of a double-bogey.
Clarke's second shot found the water hazard guarding the right of the green and while his ball was lying inside the hazard line there was still the opportunity to get his club on the ball.
However after the mud and water from Clarke's wedge shot had settled he'd only managed to move the ball a few inches and then at his second attempt his shot was short of the green and all Clarke could do was look on in despair as he ball rolled down the slope and back inside the line of the hazard.
If there was any fortune for the 41-year-old it was that the ball had come to rest in between the prior two gapping divots he taken and situated just inches apart. Finally Clarke found the green with his fifth and two-putted for a double bogey seven.
Clarke never really recovered taking bogeys at five and 11 before assuring his St Andrews entry with a 17th hole birdie for an eventual score of a 75 for a 10-under par tally.
“After the bogey on two I went for the flag at three and it was three-foot away from being good and I ended up making seven,” he said.
“So getting into the Open is a consolation prize, but I am delighted to have finished top five this week because if someone had said I would have finished second, I would probably have taken it.
“Given the way I played the first two rounds, and the position I put myself in, I am a little bit down but overall I am happy going to St Andrews.”
Clarke now joins Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Gareth Maybin and Colm Moriarty in a seven-man Irish assault on golf's oldest Major.
One of the first to offer a comforting handshake to Clarke when he gets to St Andrews will be McDowell who finished in a share of 21st at four-over par in his first tournament since winning a Pebble Beach.
“I'll catch up with Darren no doubt this week at St Andrews and there'll be a comforting handshake saying ‘well done' even though he didn't win,” said McDowell after his 75 for a one-over par tally.
“We said earlier in the week that if he got in we would play a practice round together so I will be now looking forward to that.”
McDowell was heading straight to St Andrews while his father Kenny was heading home to Portrush to support son Gary who will today attempt to qualify for the North of Ireland Amateur Open.
Gareth Maybin resisted the urge to travel to St Andrews last night ahead of his first ever Open appearance and the second Major in succession for the Ballyclare golfer. Instead Maybin's main focus was enjoying coverage of the World Cup final.