Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Darren Clarke relishing long party

SANDWICH, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland toasts his victory with a pint of Guinness at the end of the final round of The 140th Open Championship at Royal St George's on July 17, 2011 in Sandwich, England. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke stretches before teeing off during round three of the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich
Darren Clarke with Alison Campbell. 'Everything is fantastic at the moment,' he says

Darren Clarke was tonight preparing for a "very, very long" celebration after claiming his first major title at the age of 42 in the Open Championship at Royal St George's.

Clarke carded a final round of 70 in tough conditions to finish three shots clear of American pair Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, with Denmark's Thomas Bjorn a shot further back in fourth - eight years after he blew a three-shot lead here with four holes to play.

"It's just incredible, I don't know what to say. I'm speechless," said Clarke, who lifted the Claret Jug at his 20th attempt. "I played okay today, I did what I needed to do.

"The last couple of holes I was trying not to make any stupid mistakes. I just tried to play really carefully and it was good enough to win."

Clarke was playing the 54th major of his career and had not had a top 10-finish in them for a decade, but did claim his 13th European Tour title in Majorca in May.

"I won six weeks ago and the more you put yourself in winning positions the more comfortable you get with it and I've been very comfortable with myself this week," Clarke added.

Clarke's wife Heather died in 2006 after a long battle with cancer and the Ulsterman dedicated the win to their sons Tyrone and Conor.

"It's for the kids," an emotional Clarke said. "They played Royal Portrush this morning and were watching on TV."

As for the celebrations, Clarke added: "I think they will be very, very long and I'll be very hungover."

Speaking at the prize-giving ceremony, Clarke added: "It's been a long and bumpy road, I have had some good things happen to me and some bad things, but I've had so much support from an awful lot of people.

"I'd like to thank my parents and my fiancee Alison, and there's someone up there watching as well. To everybody, thank you very much."

Clarke is the third member of the International Sports Management (ISM) stable to win a major this year, following the victories of Charl Schwartzel and Rory McIlroy in the US Masters and US Open respectively.

And the head of ISM, Andrew Chandler, added: "There is a lot of talk of success and they will be trying for the clean sweep (at the US PGA Championship).

"Darren has had a lot of shots at it and you know time might be running out, and then it all happens."

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