I wrote this post a few weeks back when Rory McIlroy decimated the field at the US Open. I called it Fairy Tales. Though I can be far reaching at times with my comment, I didn't expect that it would be outshone, so soon, and for many reasons.
Yesterday, Darren Clarke, at the age of 42 won the British Open Golf Championship, winning his first Major in the process. He also became the third golfer from Northern Ireland to win a major championship in just 13 months. I'm sure any fiction writer pitching that tale to a would-be publisher would have found themselves laughed from various offices across the globe in the past few years. But today, it is reality.
Clarke, a multiple winner across the globe and also winner of two World Golf Championships - on when he mauled the Tiger - always had the pedigree. But most, myself included, always thought Daz's Day had passed.
Few will ever forget Clarke at the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club, when he moved personal mountains to help Europe secure a famous win. Clarke's wife Heather had died from Breast Cancer just a few short weeks before. He asked to play and was given a wild-card by European Captain, Ian Woosnam. In a roller-coaster of a tie, Clarke shone in all quarters before finally succumbing to the emotion of it all as the tie reached a climax.
Things changed after that for the popular Dungannon man. Left with two boys to care for, Clarke's world ranking sunk lower with each passing year. There were two wins on the European Tour in 2008 and another one earlier this year, but Clarke showed he wasn't finished just yet, as he led the field from start to finish at Sandwich over the weekend.
Valiant efforts from Phil Michelson and future Major winner, Dustin Johnson, were not enough to deter the Ulsterman who remained the personification of cool throughout the four days. As he sunk a half-footer at the last for a 70, Clarke's moment had come at last. As he claimed the adulation of the crowd, few would have offered a more popular winner on the day.
The win comes just weeks after Rory McIlroy's win at the US Open and Graham McDowell's win there the year before to make it an historic hat-trick of Major wins from Northern Ireland. Add Paddy Harrington's wins and one can see that Irish golf is in pretty good shape.
I've always loved the history of golf and the stories that whisper from its history books. But no matter how much dreaming can be done sometimes, this is beyond even the most wildest of imaginations.
Darren Clarke, Champion Golfer 2011.