Darren Clarke Captures the Open, Most Popular Winner Contest
By Stephanie Wei under British Open

When Irish eyes are smiling...

Congrats to Darren Clarke for capturing the Claret Jug by two shots over Americans Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. 

This was clearly Clarke’s week. He’s a great wind player, hit the ball beautifully, charmed the crowds and the media, but he got a few lucky bounces, too — which are always required to win a major. Of course, skill triumphs in the end, but good breaks are necessary (like hitting the top of the bunker and skipping onto the green or bouncing toward the pin instead of the junk). As they say, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good…

Clarke is a deserving winner who played beautifully all week. Some will argue that Phil and Dustin choked. I’m not sure I agree with that. Clarke just flat-out outplayed the field.

Here are some highlights from his press conference before I pack up for the night:

*In the middle of the presser, someone walked in and handed Clarke a pint of Guinness. “Cheers,” he said. “Excuse me for a little and I’ll have a little sip.”

*”I’m on Weight Watchers tomorrow morning. I’m at Chubby’s apartment, so I’m going to eat and drink as much as I want tonight and he’s going to help me on it tomorrow morning…I’ll probably get bored with it in a week and give up. (Laughter.) I think this could probably be a bad week for me to try and start. I think every time there’s five points in a pint of Guinness, I think it’s a real bad week for me to start. With Chubby doing it, I can’t get away from listening about him doing it.”

*Q. There were some idiot golf writers out there who wrote you off.
DARREN CLARKE: Hang on, let me just scratch my little — no, I’m trying to recollect your little line. “He’s in his inexorable slide toward relevance.” Is that what you said? Is that what you said? I’ve got the paper at home. I can show it to you if you don’t believe me, “inexorable slide towards relevance.” This is a mirage. Carry on, sorry.

* Clarke on what they’re doing in Portrush: “They’re probably all getting pissed, I would imagine if you really want to know, which means they’re drinking too much. They’re probably all having a drink in Portrush. If they’re not, I hope they are.”

*Clarke on whether he’s playing the Irish Open: “I will be in Killarney. I may not be sober for the Irish Open, but I will be in Killarney.”

*Clarke on why he’s popular with the public and fans: “Because I’m a bit of a normal bloke, aren’t I, really? I like to have a pint, I like to — I don’t know, go to the pub and have a pint, jump on Easy Jet, fly home, buy everybody a drink, just normal. There’s not many airs and graces about me. I was, as a few of the scribes will attest to in here, a little bit more difficult to deal with in my earlier years, and I’ve mellowed some. Just a little bit. But I’m just a normal guy playing golf, having a bit of fun.”

More to come tomorrow. Have a good night. Congrats again to Darren Clarke, and thanks for sending champagne to the media room.

Oh yeah, and we’re on full Chubby-Slam watch — Charl Schwartzel (Masters), Rory McIlroy (US Open), and now Clarke (British Open). Which one of his clients will claim the fourth and final major of the season, the PGA Championship? Maybe it’ll finally be Lee Westwood’s week. Or Rory’s again.

(AP Photo)