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Clarke claims the Claret Jug

Updated: Sunday, 17 Jul 2011 21:24

Darren Clarke recorded a three-shot win at Royal St George's
Darren Clarke recorded a three-shot win at Royal St George's

Darren Clarke became the fourth player from Northern Ireland to win a major when he triumphed at the Open Championship at Royal St George's on Sunday evening.

Clarke, who became the oldest winner of the Open since 1967, took a one-shot lead into the last day and repelled the challenge of American pair Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson with a closing 70 in tough conditions.

The 42-year-old's five-under-par total of 275 left him three clear of Mickelson (68) and playing partner Johnson (72), and continued the remarkable story of Irish success in the last four years.

After Dubliner Padraig Harrington's back-to-back Opens and a US PGA title as well, Graeme McDowell captured the US Open last year and then compatriot Rory McIlroy succeeded him last month.

Now Clarke, playing the 54th major of his career but without a top 10-finish in them for a decade, has finally claimed the Claret Jug denied him in 1997 by a closing 65 from American Justin Leonard.

Clarke set a new record by winning the Open at his 20th attempt, while only dropped shots at the last two holes prevented him from becoming just the sixth player to shoot four rounds in the 60s in championship history.

He had to save par from 18ft at the first after leaving a nervous first putt well short, but birdied the next from five feet and recovered from a bogey at the fourth in style with an eagle from 20ft on the par-five seventh.

That took him back to two ahead of Mickelson, who had eagled the same hole 25 minutes earlier on his way to a brilliant front nine of 30, but the left-hander cut the gap to one with another birdie on the 10th.

Mickelson's challenge ended with four dropped shots in the next six holes and it was left to Johnson to take up the fight with birdies at 10 and 12.

However, the 27-year-old again proved susceptible to pressure - he took a three-shot lead into the final round of last year's US Open but shot 82 - by carving his second shot out of bounds on the par-five 14th to run up a double-bogey seven.

That left Clarke with plenty of breathing space and he could afford to bogey the last two holes and still claim an impressive victory.

He received a first prize of £900,000 and a bonus of £2,000,000 from one of his sponsors for the biggest success of his career. Clarke also moves up from 111th in the world to 30th.

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