To the casual golf fans, Darren Clarke does not ring the bell like Dustin Johnson, Phil (who he beat today) or even Steve Stricker but he is no newcomer. Clarke was the only man to take down Tiger head to head in match play and is a Ryder Cup stalwart and a European Tour mainstay. But he was a surprise pick this week coming in as the 111th ranked player in the world. To say he wasn't on experts radars is to assume they thought he was going to play this week.
But you couldn't have a more likable champion. Clarke is an everyman, likes his Guinness, his family and not working out too much. He is the UK's version of John Daly, minus all the domestic problems. He told the R&A officials to forgive him for the Guinness residue that will be in the Claret Jug. But outside of the fun stuff, Clarke's life has been a battle.
He lost his wife to cancer five years ago and has raised his two sons on his own since. The stress of being a single parent with the gnarliest schedule in pro sports has shown on him. He is 42 years old but he looks like he is 52.
The win will keep him looking young and moving towards better things in the future. Hopefully some more majors.
Rory will win more majors, so will Graeme McDowell and Dustin will win multiple. But he needs to win his first one. DJ has been in the final grouping three times in his short career on tour and every time he finds a way to take himself out of contention. But this time around, he played better. The wind was awful, it rained from all directions and the pressure of winning golf's oldest major hung large on him but he did OK. DJ has the Killer Instinct you need to win majors, he just needs to use it.
We've seen Phil Mickelson use it. Three Masters' titles and a PGA prove it but he can't win the British, at least right now. With the weather and course layout they present, wining a British Open requires creative shot making and patience and yet, those are the talents Phil has. That's what he is known for! But he can't put it together when it matters at the British.
The British Open is great. I would cut off a small appendage (left pinky) to play over there. Any links course, it doesn't matter, I'm there... minus my pinky. Why is it so special? Everyone's answer will be different but to me it's like playing in a different world. The courses are different: No trees, funny names for holes, not a cart for miles there and your game completely changes over there. Up is down, left is right and the whole time you are smiling. Maybe it's the history of the game there, teeing it up where the true inventors of the game played and then Kings followed.
I'm envious of the patrons that get to go every year... until the storms move in and I'm miserable. That I don't envy.