Bygones - Recalling when popular golfer Darren Clarke defied the odds, weather and 155 rivals to win the 2011 Open
Royal St George’s – Sandwich as it is affectionately known due to its location on Kent’s coastline – misses its turn on the rota.
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.
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.
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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