Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Phil Mickelson pays tribute to Darren Clarke

Phil Mickelson
SANDWICH, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland lifts the Claret Jug aloft following his victory 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)
Darren Clarke with Alison Campbell. 'Everything is fantastic at the moment,' he says

Phil Mickelson last night paid tribute to Darren Clarke after the 42-year-old's emotional victory in the Open Championship at Royal St George's.

Mickelson began the final round five shots behind Clarke, but wiped out that deficit in the space of seven holes courtesy of three birdies and an eagle.

The left-hander's challenge petered out on the back nine as Clarke went on to lift the Claret Jug, but Mickelson was delighted for the Northern Irishman after sharing off-course troubles over the years.

Clarke's wife Heather died in 2006 after a long battle with cancer, while Mickelson's wife Amy and his mother Mary are both currently recovering from breast cancer and Mickelson revealed that Clarke was one of the first on the phone to offer his support during an obviously difficult time.

"I'm really happy for Darren," Mickelson said after a closing 68 which left him in a share of second place with fellow American Dustin Johnson.

"He was one of the first people that called us, Amy and I, a couple years ago. He's been through this and couldn't have been a better person to talk to.

"We talked for a few hours a couple of times, just to know what to expect and what they went through and what worked and what didn't and some of the mistakes they made and so forth and the fears that he had. He's been through it all and so I was very appreciative of the time we spent.

"He's a tremendous person and a very good friend, and I couldn't be happier for him. It was fun to try to make a run at him."

Mickelson was left to rue a desperate run of four bogeys in six holes on the back nine, adding: "When I saw Darren wasn't going to make a mistake I had to start trying to make birdies, and that's when I ended up making a couple of bogeys.

"The (par) putt at 11 was just a stupid mistake. There was nothing to it. It was just a dumb mental error.

"I just lost focus there and it hurts to throw shots away like that when I'm behind."

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk