Darren Clarke’s bid for his first senior Major title came up just short as he finished third at The Senior Open at Sunningdale.
The 52-year-old was looking to become only the fourth man to win both The Open and The Senior Open, but he would come up two shots shy of winner Stephen Dodd, who instead claimed his first Major crown after triumphing by one shot over Miguel Ángel Jiménez with a stunning birdie at the 18th.
Clarke, who held the lead after the opening two rounds, had briefly led in the final round too as overnight leader Dodd faltered midway through his round, but a bogey at the 16th from the Dungannon man and two birdies in his final five holes from the Welshman flipped the script.
In the end, Clarke signed for a three-under 67 that got him to 11-under, but Dodd’s 68 was good enough to put him to 13-under, one clear of Jiménez, two ahead of the Northern Irishman and, most importantly, enough to lift a first Major title of his career.
Clarke will likely go back and rue a costly double-bogey on the 17th of his third round which left him three shots back going into the final day and was ultimately the difference between him and a play-off on Sunday.
But the former European Ryder Cup captain had chances in his final round to put a stranglehold on the trophy that he did not take and his wait for a first senior Major will go on.
Clarke had started superbly with back-to-back birdies on his opening two holes, and a brilliant par save at the sixth was rewarded with further birdies at the seventh and ninth.
That had him tied for the lead with Dodd, who turned in one-under, but a bogey at the 10th dropped the Northern Irishman one behind.
It looked as if the leader would drop back and join him at the 12th when Dodd had to chip out sideways from the trees after a poor drive, but an excellent approach saved par and meant a birdie from Clarke at the 14th was only to tie the lead again rather than take it outright.
That also allowed Jiménez into the picture, the enigmatic Spaniard — playing alongside Clarke — rolling in birdies at the 12th and 14th to move one behind, and then adding another at the 17th to draw level at the summit.
Unfortunately, alongside him, Clarke’s race was run. A disappointing bogey at the 16th dropped him one behind both Dodd and his playing partner, and when a birdie putt that had to drop on the final hole didn’t, he was consigned to defeat.
It looked as if Dodd and Jiménez would go back down the 18th after the Spaniard managed to par the final hole for a 65 that set the mark at 12-under, but the Welshman responded under pressure by hitting a fabulous approach from the heavy rough to 10-feet, and he sank the birdie putt for the win.
On the Challenge Tour, Michael Hoey finished strongly at the Italian Challenge as he managed to secure an 11th-placed result at Margara Golf Club in Fubine with a five-under 66 in his final round to finish eight-under.
Tom McKibbin finished in 34th after closing with a 70 to get to four-under, with Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia carding a 64 to triumph by two at 16-under.
Elsewhere, Fortwilliam’s Hugh O’Hare was the best Ulster finisher at the South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch as he was the only local player to reach the semi-finals, but that was where his challenge ended.
O’Hare was defeated 2&1 by Co Sligo’s TJ Ford in the last-four, with the Connacht man going on to claim the title with a 5&4 victory over Dun Laoghaire’s Alan Fahy.