Bygones - Recalling when popular golfer Darren Clarke defied the odds, weather and 155 rivals to win the 2011 Open

It would have been the Open Championship this week at Royal St George’s, that great annual gathering of the golf’s finest male professionals, a few fortunate amateurs and thousands of spectators.

File photo dated 17/07/2011 of Darren Clarke holding the Claret Jug after winning the 2011 Open Championship during round four of the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Saturday July 30, 2011. The PGA Championship will start on August 11th, at Atlanta Athletic Club, Georgia, USA. See PA Story GOLF USPGA. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information

Coronavirus put paid to that, postponing the Open for a year and prompting a planned reconvening at St Andrews in 12 months time.

Royal St George’s – Sandwich as it is affectionately known due to its location on Kent’s coastline – misses its turn on the rota.

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What a pity, because St George’s is one of the more challenging courses on the Open circuit, and one of the easiest for a punter to follow the action throughout all four days.

England's Danny Willett chips out of the rough during round two of the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 15, 2011. See PA Story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information

I have been fortunate to see two Opens in their entirety down at Sandwich – in 2003 as a fan when Ben Curtis emerged from nowhere to win the Claret Jug before disappearing from whence he came, and in 2o11, when covering it for The Yorkshire Post.

That year’s was a cracking Open Championship, beginning for me at 6.30 when a young Danny Willett of Sheffield teed off in a maiden major championship in the first group out, and ending in the media centre writing up a thrilling victory for Darren Clarke.

The loveable Ulsterman had no right winning the Open that week, but such is the beauty of the championship it is rarely easy to predict.

Clarke was majestic that summer of 2011, defying his advancing years, determined challenges from Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson to consign years of near misses in his home major to the history books.

England's Danny Willett lines up a putt during round two of the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 15, 2011. See PA Story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information

Not even the howling wind and driving rain which battered the links over the weekend could knock him off his game.

He dropped only three shots on the Sunday, two in the final two holes, the last of which denied him the accolade of shooting in the 60s for each of the four rounds.

So out of form and out of mind was Clarke just a few months earlier, that one national newspaper journalist said Clarke’s career had become a ‘screaming irrelevance’.

The 42-year-old Clarke took great delight in bringing that up at his champion’s press conference that evening, sitting there with his first pint of Guinness.

It was all very jovial, with Clarke later sending a case of champagne to the press tent, a sign of the mutual respect that had built up over the years between the fourth estate and always one of the more approachable players.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said the Champion Golfer of 2011.

“It’s been a dream since I was a kid to win the Open.

“It just feels incredible right now.”

We shall have to wait another year to head someone utter a similar line on becoming Open champion.

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