Clarke swinging in the rain as he wins Senior Open and secures notable double

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Darren Clarke savours his Senior Open success
Darren Clarke savours his Senior Open success

We got there in the end. There was so much water swilling around on the final day of the Senior Open here at a sodden Gleneagles, you half expected the result to be decided by the number of fathoms a player could get below par. Amid downpours, disruption, delays and defiant endeavour by the greenkeeping staff and their squeegees, a drookit Darren Clarke emerged triumphant with a nerveless display.

With Padraig Harrington piling on the pressure with a back-nine charge, Clarke stood firm in the gathering gloom and made a birdie on the final hole for a one-under 69, a 10-under aggregate and a slender one-shot victory over his gallant rival.

It was the Northern Irishman’s  first major triumph on the senior circuit and it arrived 11 years after he landed The Open Championship on the main tour back in 2011. The 53-year-old became just the fourth player, after Bob Charles, Gary Player and Tom Watson, to lift both The Open and Senior Open Claret Jugs.

“I made no secret that I wanted to win this one more than anything so I could sit it beside the other one and join some of the legends of the game,” he said of this notable double.

“Fulfilling your dreams is a very fortunate thing to do and I’ve been able to do it a few times in my career.”

With Gleneagles bombarded by the kind of biblical torrents that would’ve had Noah setting sail down the A9, a suspension of play just before 6pm, which lasted for two hours, was an almighty scunner for everybody concerned.

It was tight at the top by that stage with various players parrying and jousting in the upper echelons. Clarke had parred his first nine holes, leaked a sloppy shot on the 10th and birdied the 12th to stay at the summit but he had to stave off some menacing advances.

Mauricio Molina and Doug Barron had set the clubhouse target at eight-under with a pair of 65s before Harrington came rampaging home with a last-ditch burst. It looked like the reigning US Senior Open champion had scuppered his hopes of another senior major after a bogey at seven and a double-bogey at nine but he covered his inward half in six-under to muscle his way to the top. Clarke stood firm, though, and two-putted from 70-feet on the par-5 18th to clinch a memorable triumph.

Clarke famously enjoyed an all-night celebration when he won The Open 11 years ago. “This Claret jug doesn’t hold as much,” he said with a smile of the smaller senior clump of senior silverware.

Molina’s final day effort was charged with emotion as he came barging into contention with three birdies in a row from the 16th. “Two years ago, two weeks in a coma,” said the tearful 55-year-old as he reflected on a traumatic period back in 2020 when his appendix burst. He finished tied third here with Barron, Ernie Els, Thongchai Jaidee, Steve Alker and Paul Broadhurst.

Colin Montgomerie, who had vaulted into contention with a late trio of birdies during Saturday’s third round, led the home challenge in ninth place after a 69 left the three-time senior major champion on seven-under. Behind him, Paul Lawrie saved his best for last and put the finishing touches to a closing 67 with a monstrous eagle putt on the 18th for a five-under total. “I hit lots of really good putts that didn’t go in, then I hole a 70-footer,” said Lawrie with a rueful grin.

We all got home but not necessarily dry.