Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Irish eyes are smiling at the Open

Four years ago no Irish golfer had won a major since Fred Daly in the 1947 Open.

How times have changed. Padraig Harrington won three of the next six, then Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, both from north of the border like Daly, won back-to-back US Opens and now Darren Clarke has joined them.

Here is a look back at the major triumphs:

2007 OPEN - Harrington is six behind Sergio Garcia with a round to go at Carnoustie and after charging into contention double bogeys the last.

Garcia, though, bogeys it to fall into a tie and the Dubliner birdies the first extra hole, then holds on.

"I never let myself think I had just thrown away the Open on the 18th," he said.

2008 OPEN - Harrington, doubtful beforehand because of a wrist injury, plays a brilliant back nine highlighted by an eagle on the 17th for a four-shot win over Ian Poulter at Birkdale.

He is the first European to retain the title since James Braid in 1906.

"It's a lot shinier than I remember," he says of the trophy he had handed back at the start of the week.

2008 US PGA - Garcia and Harrington go head-to-head again at Oakland Hills and the result is the same as Europe's 78-year wait for a winner of the title is ended.

Harrington birdies the 17th - Garcia was closer and then missed - and a 15-footer at the last secures victory.

"I'm actually disappointed I'm seven months away from the next major," he said.

2010 US OPEN - Tony Jacklin was the last European winner of the trophy in 1970 and with Dustin Johnson three clear at Pebble Beach after 54 holes it does not look good again.

But Johnson has an early triple and double bogey, crashes to an 82 and world number 37 McDowell holds his nerve.

"Careers are defined by major championships and my career's off and running today," he comments.

2011 US OPEN - Two months after a closing 80 when four ahead at The Masters McIlroy starts at Congressional with a 65.

From three in front he goes six clear with a 66, then eight ahead with a 68, setting 36-hole and 54-hole records.

No nightmare this time, the trophy goes straight back to Northern Ireland.

"At Augusta it was all a bit new to me. I have a clear mind now," says the 22-year-old.

2011 OPEN - English amateur Tom Lewis and 2003 Sandwich runner-up Thomas Bjorn lead after opening with 65s, but at halfway it is Clarke and American Lucas Glover out in front.

A Saturday 69, one of only three sub-70 scores in the wind and rain, leaves Clarke one ahead and at the 20th attempt he becomes Open champion.

"The Open is the biggest and best tournament in the world. Nineteen times I've failed, now I've won - it's a dream come true," he said.

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