12 Jul 2021

Spin back: 2011 Open – Clarke’s long wait for Major glory ends

Over the last 20 years The Open has been the men’s Major which has supplied the most surprising list of winners – and 2011 is a prime example when 150/1 long-shot Darren Clarke emerged victorious. Arriving on the back of finishing 66th at the Scottish Open a week earlier, not many thought Clarke would be the one left clutching the Claret Jug, and yet there he was, Champion Golfer of the Year.

The top ranked players in the world going into the event were Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, while Rory McIlroy was the star attraction having just broken through in spectacular style at the US Open.

However, none of those three broke par on the opening day and after round one the leaders were Thomas Bjorn –runner-up at Royal St Georges back in 2003 – and young amateur Tom Lewis, after they returned 65s. Clarke had opened with a 68 and after posting the same score on day two he found himself in a share of the lead on 4-under-par at the half-way stage alongside Lucas Glover. A third successive round in the 60s saw Clarke take a one-stroke lead over Dustin Johnson into the final round with Rickie Fowler and Bjorn three back.

Phil Mickelson, who started five strokes behind, showed glimpses of his growing appreciation for British links golf with a final round charge and would wind up in a share of second place – the American would win The Open two years later at Muirfield. At one stage Mickelson moved into a share of the lead with Clarke, but the Ulsterman responded with an eagle on hole 7, and from there he never relinquished his lead. Johnson remained within touching distance for most of the day, but a pushed approach to the 14th saw him go out of bounds which led to a double bogey.

Clarke then had a four-shot lead and closed it out with a bogey on 18 to win by three from the American pair. Bjorn was fourth, a trio of Americans – Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim and Chad Campbell – were fifth while Simon Dyson finished in a share of ninth as the leading Englishman. At 42,

Clarke became the oldest first-time Major winner and followed fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell (2010 US Open) and Rory McIlroy (2011 US Open) into golfing lore.

 

 

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