GLENEAGLES, Scotland – It remains to be seen what Darren Clarke will come up with to celebrate the year 2033. For now, however, it’s enough to know that the burly Northern Irishman has added the 2022 Senior British Open title to his 2011 Open Championship. . victory. Closely challenged by a sizeable team of regular and senior major winners, Clarke’s closing 69 on the endlessly scenic King’s Course at Gleneagles was just enough to see all comers and claim the $432,080 check for first place.
Another Irishman, Padraig Harrington’s 67 pushed Clarke all the way but was both coy and a shot ahead of a six-man field including Ernie Els, Steve Alker and Paul Broadhurst in third place.
However, it took a little longer than usual to sort out all of the above. Clarke’s 72-hole total of 10-under 270 only came after a two-hour delay caused by torrential rains late Sunday night. Nine under par and standing on the 14th fairway when play was stopped, Clarke (eventually) failed to birdie the nearly passable par 4 and gave the pushing peloton new hope. And soon enough, they took advantage. Within minutes, Alker (in 15th), Thongchai Jaidee (16th), Els (18th) and Harrington (17th), the recent US Senior Open champion, all birdied to advance their respective causes.
Significantly, however, only Harrington, who birdied a second on the par-5 closing hole, did enough to reach Clarke’s nine-under status. But it wasn’t really enough. Not enough. When (as the rain fell more and more) the burly Northern Irishman made a 4 of his own on the 18th, two long-range putts, he created the advantage he needed to become only the fourth man after Gary Player, Bob Charles and Tom Watson. to complete the Open and Senior Open double.
This fact clearly meant a lot.
“I made no secret of the fact that I wanted to win more than anything after turning 50,” Clarke said, which he did in August 2018. “As a child, I wanted to win the Open Championship. As a As a senior, this has always been the one for me. This trophy will look great sitting next to the other. I’m honored and privileged to have my name on both alongside some legends of the game.”
And the conditions? Not a problem for an Ulsterman.
“I grew up doing stuff like that,” Clarke said. “That doesn’t make it any easier though. It was a battle. Pars was a bit of a prisoner there. But I was cruising until I had a terrible swing on the 10th. All of a sudden, an easy birdie turned into a bad bogey. I made some good shots from there, but the putter was a bit cold. I didn’t find much. but going down in two putts about 70 feet the last one was obviously nice. It was game percentage, although the two feet I had left still needed to be knocked down.
One thing Clarke won’t do is repeat the all-night celebration following his Open triumph 11 years ago, one that saw him turn up for a Monday morning press conference a bit further in bad condition. “This trophy doesn’t last that long,” he said with a smile.
Of the challengers, Harrington will have the most reason to regret. The two-time Open champion hit the ball with his usual authority, but missed plenty of feasible putts, most of them for birdies. And eagles. Two in his last five holes to be precise, on the 14th and the fateful last.
Clarke, however, has every right to be pleased with himself. It was a performance of the highest class under difficult circumstances and against a chasing pack containing, at various points in the final round, as many as seven major champions, both regular and senior.
One last thing. The winning score even had a touch of irony about it. The last time Clarke played 72 holes competitively on the King’s Course was at the 1994 Scottish Open. Back then he also shot 270, good enough for only a T-5 finish. Things in golf are changing, some of them for the better.