Golf-Clarke celebrates all night after priceless Open victory


Mon, 18 Jul 13:49:00 2011

Still wearing a grin almost the width of Royal St George's 18th fairway despite no sleep, Darren Clarke was slowly getting his muzzy head around becoming the oldest British Open champion for over 40 years.

The 42-year-old Northern Irishman's three-stroke victory earned him 900,000 pounds ($1.45 million) prize money plus two million pounds from his kit sponsor, who offered him a bonus for winning a major at a time most thought his best days were behind him.

Yet it was the realisation his name was now etched on the old Claret Jug perched beside him that provided the most joy after drinking the night away with his manager of 20 years "Chubby" Chandler, a session that lasted until 30 minutes before meeting the media on Monday.

"This is beyond price. To get my name on here means more than anything," said Clarke, who has emerged from the darkest days of 2006 when his wife Heather died from breast cancer.

"This is going to benefit me hugely financially," added Clarke, who will now qualify automatically for all the majors until the twilight of his career.

"But it's more to have my name on here. And what's even more important is when I get home later today my boys (Tyrone and Conor) will have the trophy in their hands and see their dad's name on it."

Clarke said he had been celebrating so hard he had not even managed to read all the messages of congratulations that have been pouring in via text and email, although he recalled ones from fellow major champions went along the lines of "welcome to the club".

"I have 294 messages, and the writing is far too small for me to look at them in this state. I'll look at them tomorrow at some stage and try to figure them out," he beamed.

"It was a very good night last night, quite a few beers, quite a few glasses of red wine and it all continued until about 30 minutes ago."


He did not carry out his threat to fill the old Claret Jug with Guinness, however.

"Actually there's been nothing in it all night," he said, before adding a perfect description of his natural golf game that shone in the wilds of Kent while many of the younger generation were blown off course.

"I'm a bit of a traditionalist. I'm a bit two-iron as opposed to rescue."

Clarke's victory will rocket him back into the top 100 in the rankings and he hopes to harness the serenity that steered him through the rough weekend weather to become a regular in the mix for major titles and earn him another crack at the Ryder Cup next year.

"I can't put my finger on what's been different this week," said Clarke, who admitted his emotions used to get the better of him in years gone by.

"It's just been very comfortable, and hopefully I will find that state of mind at the PGA next month in Atlanta.

"I'm definitely a better player than I was 10 years ago."

Clarke was being touted as a possible Ryder Cup captain in Gleneagles in 2014 but is now setting his sights on a return as a player next year near Chicago.

"Unfortunately these points won't count for the team next year, but in saying that, I'm a major champion, so (captain) Jose Maria (Olazabal) will be paying attention, as he always does, so we'll see where that brings me," he said.

"As far as when I'm going to be captain? I don't know. This win may or may not put my aspirations back a couple of years. I would love to be playing on the 2014 Ryder Cup team, never mind anything else." ($1 = 0.620 British Pounds)


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