Northern Ireland is making its stamp on golf, after Darren Clarke posted a steady round of even par to win the British Open at Royal St. George’s by three strokes.
Clarke held off a charge by American Phil Mickelson, who at one point shared the lead, and was able to cruise home after Dustin Johnson hit a ball out of bounds coming down the stretch and widening Clarke’s lead to four shots.
Clarke’s victory comes just a month after countryman Rory McIlroy lapped the field at the U.S. Open.
Despite two bogeys to wrap up the title, the Claret Jug was Clarke’s about midway down the back nine as he played steady golf as his chasers fell away.
After a stirring eagle as part of a front nine 30 by Mickelson, Clarke responded with an eagle of his own on the seventh hole. Combined with several short missed putts by Mickelson down the stretch, and it was clear that the long-hitting Johnson posed Clarke’s only threat.
Johnson inched within two shots heading to the 14th hole, a par 5, where Johnson’s distance would be an advantage, However, his second shot squirted right and landed out of bounds, leading to a double bogey and effectively ending his chances.
Clarke would play the final two holes conservatively and finish at -5, just where he started the day.
Clarke’s win will be especially popular among his peers, where he is considered one of the most personable players in professional golf. His victory comes just years after his wife lost her battle with breast cancer before turning 40 years old.
In his victory speech, an emotional Clarke referred to his two sons, his parents, his new fiance and “someone up there watching down as well.”
A former bartender who’s never been afraid to discuss his enjoyment of a drink, he also mentioned filling the Claret Jug with “Irish black stuff.”
The only question is whether his fans back home will drink the kegs of Guinness dry before he gets there.