Darren Clarke paid a moving tribute to his late wife Heather after pulling off one of the most emotional wins in Open history.
The Northern Irishman outclassed top Americans Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson at Royal St George’s to win his first major by three strokes at the age of 42.
Worth the wait: Darren Clarke, playing in his 20th Open championship, became the second Northern Irishman to win the Claret Jug since Fred Daly in 1947
‘To sit in front of you guys with the Claret Jug next to me means the world,’ said Clarke in his victory press conference.
‘In terms of what’s going through my heart, there’s obviously somebody who is watching down from up above and I know she’d be very proud of me.’
Clarke’s wife Heather lost a battle with breast cancer five years ago.
Magic moment: The gallery on the 18th green erupts as Clarke claims his maiden major by three shots
One of the first players to congratulate him was Mickelson, whose own wife Amy has recovered from the same dreadful disease.
‘Darren was one of the first people who called us when Amy was diagnosed,’ said Mickelson. ‘He couldn’t have been a better person to talk to.
‘We talked for a few hours a couple of times and he told us what to expect and what they went through — their fears and so forth.
Reaching his destiny: Clarke kisses his fiancee Alison Campbell (left), before enjoying a pint of the black stuff
‘He’s a tremendous person and a very good friend and I couldn’t be happier for him.
‘He couldn’t be a nicer guy. There are going to be a lot of players who will be extremely happy for him.’
One of them was the absent Tiger Woods, who sent texts of encouragement before the final round. Another was Clarke’s protege, Rory McIlroy.
Boys’ own stuff: Clarke becomes the oldest Open winner since Roberto Di Vicenzo, who was at the ripe old age of 47 in 1967
On the eve of the final round of the US Open last month, which McIlroy won by eight shots, Clarke sent him a text that read: ‘Show them how good you are.’
Now Rory returned the compliment. ‘Right back at you,’ his message read.
With South African Charl Schwartzel winning the Masters, it means that all three majors staged so far this year have been won by players managed by Chubby Chandler.
Clarke was the 58-year-old Lancastrian’s first client back in 1990 and Chandler couldn’t stop the tears from falling as his best friend tapped in the winning putt.
‘We’ve had some dark phone conversations over the years and he lost five years of his career because of what happened with Heather,’ said Chandler.
‘But Rory has been great for him, they feed off one another. He played with Rory in practice and realised his game was up to it. This makes his career.’
Clarke’s victory was worth an incredible near £3million, made up of the £900,000 first prize and a £2m sponsorship bonus offered by Mike Ashley, who owns Dunlop and Sports Direct.
Clarke was due to begin a WeightWatchers’ diet this week.
Sipping a pint of Guinness, he said: ‘I’ve got a feeling that I’ve picked the wrong week to be starting that.’
Combined with Graeme McDowell’s victory in the US Open last year, it now means that three golfers from the six counties of Northern Ireland have won majors in the space of 13 months.
To put that into perspective, in the history of major championship golf before this, Fred Daly’s victory in the 1947 Open had been the only success for a Northern Irishman.
A jubilant McIlroy tweeted: ‘Northern Ireland — golfing capital of the world’ and it really is hard to argue with that.
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