2011 British Open Leaderboard: Champ Darren Clarke a Model of Perseverance
It took 42-year-old Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland 20 appearances in the Open Championship to win the title, but he got it done.
And nobody could have seen this coming.
Clarke, once the face of Northern Ireland, hadn't placed in the top 10 in a major championship in a decade. It had been six years since he placed in the top 20.
That all changed in the 2011 British Open, when he rose in the final two rounds amid wild, windy weather and driving rain to shock the world.
Coming into the British Open, Clarke was the No. 111 player in the world, long deemed to be past his prime.
He suffered a heartbreaking loss in 2006 when his wife passed away after a long battle with breast cancer.
But Clarke always had hope.
Said Clarke, via ESPN:
"I always believed I would get myself back up here. I always believed I had enough talent to challenge and win one."
And as he clutched the claret jug, he glanced toward the sky and said, "Somebody up there, is watching down as well."
Clarke played 1-under-par and even par in the last two rounds, fantastic considering only three players posted a under par in the third round on Saturday.
And when a player "past his prime" was supposed to falter down the stretch on Sunday, he remained a rock, while contenders Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Thomas Bjorn sank.
Clarke's story is a true anthem to perseverance, holding strong when everyone says you have no chance. Golfers are supposed to start declining at 32 years old, nevermind 42.
Louis Oosthuizen showed in 2010, as so many have, that anyone could win the Open Championship.
But Oosthuizen was ranked No. 54 in 2010. Clarke was ranked No. 111.
Clarke's title on Sunday goes down as one of the most improbable major championship victories in the history of golf, but this wasn't simply about Clarke's game, it was about the individual himself.
Finishing with a 5-under-par 275, when you rise like this, it's not as much about your golf swing, or your ability to battle the elements, it's about what you hold inside first and foremost.
Clarke is an inspiration to all who have been told they weren't good enough.
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