Another 'dream come true' for Darren Clarke as he wins Senior Open

Darren Clarke didn’t mind that it was raining, virtually spectator-free and 8.52pm. Not when he’d just won the Senior Open, claiming a first over-50s’ major and also joining Bob Charles, Gary Player and Tom Watson as the only players to do the double after also landing The Open.

Darren Clarke kisses the trophy after winning The Senior Open Presented by Rolex at Gleneagles. PIcture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images.
Darren Clarke kisses the trophy after winning The Senior Open Presented by Rolex at Gleneagles. PIcture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images.

Eleven years after his Claret Jug success at Royal St George’s, Clarke produced a polished last-day performance in testing conditions at Gleneagles to also get his hands on the seniors’ equivalent, which is marginally smaller but equally coveted.

Back at the King’s Course, which he first played when it hosted the Bell’s Scottish Open, the 53-year-old birdied the last for a closing 69 to finish with a 10-under-par 270 total.

The first Northern Irishman to claim the prize, Clarke won by a shot from US Senior Open champion Padraig Harrington, who had stormed home in 30, finishing birdie-birdie, for a closing 67 to set the clubhouse target.

Colin Montgomerie during the final round at the King's Course at Gleneagles. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images.

A group of six players, including two-time Open champion Ernie Els and 2016 winner Paul Broadhurst, who had shared the overnight lead with Clarke on nine-under, finished a shot further back in joint-third. They also included Argentina’s Mauricio Molina and American Doug Barron after they had best-of-the-day 65s, the latter going low on his 53rd birthday.

The win, which was worth £370,000, came in Clarke’s 13th senior major and was his fourth title triumph since turning 50.

"Very happy,” said Clarke, who was congratulated his by his second wife, Alison, as he came off the 18th green. “I made no secret that I wanted to win this one more than anything when I turned 50 so I could sit it aside the other one. Pretty good feeling right now.

“Very privileged to get name on the Open trophy, the Claret Jug, and now to get my name on this one as well. Beside some of the legends of the game as well, very humbled and very honoured.”

Paul Lawrie tees off at the start of his final round, which ended with an eagle from 70 feet. Picture: Phil Inglis/Getty Images.

On an afternoon when a squad of greenkeepers constantly worked feverishly with squeegees, play was eventually suspended just before 6pm and didn’t restart for two hours. Even then, it was a close call as the heavens opened again shortly after Clarke, having judged a 70-footer to perfection, knocked in his winning putt from around 18 inches.

"It’s what I grew up playing in, though it doesn’t make it any easier,” he said of he conditions. As for that crucial lag putt, he added: “I’ve grown up playing links and 70 feet putts are no big deal. I did something similar last year in Sioux Falls to win on the Champions Tour, a big long putt from off the green to an upper tier.

"It just seemed to be the percentage shot going up the slope, didn’t want any spin on it going up the slope. It was dry and pretty tight. As two-footers go, you’ve still got to knock it in. It was nice to get it up really close.”

Clarke famously turned up for a press conference the morning after his Open win in a drunken state. “No,” he replied to being asked if a similar celebration was on the cards. “This Claret jug doesn’t hold as much. I’ll have a few celebratory drinks to night.

"But to win the tournament I always wanted to win a as kid, the Open Championship and then to win this one. From when I went on the Senior Tour this is what I wanted to win. I'm very fortunate to do it. Fulfilling your dreams is a very lucky thing and I’ve been able to do it a few times in my career.”

After finishing with three straight birdies on Saturday, Colin Montgomerie kept the spring in his step by rolling in a 15-footer with a big right-to-left break at the opening hole.

The three-time senior major then made a couple of par saves before seeing his hopes of a dream first win in this event dashed by back-to-back bogeys at the eighth and ninth.

He went on to sign off with a 69, finishing ninth on seven-under, the smile on his face at the end being a sign that he’d enjoyed his week on home soil.

Paul Lawrie raised the loudest roar of the day as he signed off in style by holing a 70-footer for an eagle-3 at the 18th. That gave him a closing 67 for a five-under total, which secured a share of tenth spot - his best finish in this event in three starts.

“It was no more than I deserved, to be honest, as I played lovely over the weekend,” said the Aberdonian, who is waiting to hear if he’s being considered again for Europe’s Ryder Cup captaincy after Henrik Stenson was stripped of the post on Wednesday.

“I made a double and triple yesterday and still shot one-under and today I hit a lot of really good putts that didn’t go in then you hole a 70-footer to finish.

“It was probably about right, to be honest, and I’m happy enough with that as I don’t play a lot of competitive golf these days. To play as nicely as that over the weekend is great.”

Four-time winner Bernhard Langer finished outside the top ten for only the second time in 14 starts in the event following a last-day 71 that included a double-bogey 6 at the ninth.

Peter O’Malley, who covered the final five holes in seven-under to deny Montgomerie in the 1992 Bell’s Scottish Open on the same course, did it in two-under on this occasion in a closing 69.

Andrew Oldcorn (76) finished just outside the top 40 on four-over while qualifier Scott Henderson ended up joint-last among the 71 players to make the cut after an 81 that included a quintuple-bogey 8 at the fifth.

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