This week’s Hero Open marks the return of a European Tour event that has not been staged since 2002 when Darren Clarke made history by becoming the first player to win the title for a third time.
The Northern Irishman, who has gone on to win the Open Championship and captain Europe’s Ryder Cup side since, finished three shots clear in a field that included that year’s Ryder Cup stars Paul McGinley and Lee Westwood, as well as captain Sam Torrance.
Clarke started the final round at Marriott Forest of Arden in 2002 level with France’s Raphaël Jacquelin but the veteran quickly eased away from the Frenchman and the rest of the field to capture his ninth European Tour title.
After opening with five straight pars, Clarke posted successive birdies at the sixth and seventh before rolling in an 18-foot putt for eagle at the 12th to all but seal the tournament.
“This is certainly very satisfying,” said Clarke after pocketing €208,797. “Probably this one more than the other victories because I have been playing well recently without having been able to put a score on the board. But it feels very good to go out and play the way I played today and win.
“I led from start to finish and that says an awful lot about my game. I feel very comfortable at the moment. I’m swinging it well and hitting it where I want to most of the time.”
Graeme Storm, Richard Bland, Jamie Donaldson, David Howell and Robert Rock all featured in 2002 and will once again be part of this year’s field as the European Tour continues its UK Swing.