DARREN CLARKE’S attempts to end a two-year winless drought finished with a St Andrews ‘consolation prize’ after letting slip victory in the Barclays Scottish Open.
Clarke began the last day at Loch Lomond just a stroke behind new champion Edorado Molinari of Italy, his challenge effectively ended when he needed three shots to get out of a water hazard at the third hole.
The 41-year old Clarke, who took a double-bogey, fell four strokes behind Molinari who birdied the hole on route to his 74 for a three-shot success at 12-under par tally.
Clarke eventually walked away with a 76 for a nine-under par score while also managing by a stroke to deny Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin (68) a place in the British Open.
Had Clarke doubled the final hole then Jacquelin, and not Clarke, would be heading to the Home of Golf on the basis of a lower last day score.
“After the bogey on two I went for the flag at three and it was three-foot away from being good and I ended-up making seven,” he said.
“It was tough conditions and I was on the back foot very early on and trying to grind out a score when I should have been keeping an eye on the leader board more than I should have done so consequently I struggled.
“But after my start I just kept saying ‘keep going and just wait for something to turn around’ but I couldn’t get the ball close enough and didn’t play well enough to give myself enough chances.
“So getting into The Open is a consolation prize but I am delighted to have finished top-five this week because if someone had of said I would have finished second, I would probably have taken it.
“Given the way I played the first two rounds, and the position I put myself in, I am a little bit down but overall I am happy going to St. Andrews.
“Hopefully, I can reproduce more of my first two rounds golf and the last one.”
Clarke now joins Pádraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Gareth Maybin and Colm Moriarty in a seven-man Irish assault on golf’s oldest Major.
One of the first to commiserate with Clarke when he gets to St. Andrews will be McDowell who finished in a share of 21st at four-over par in his first tournament since winning at Pebble Beach.
“I’ll catch up with Darren no doubt this week at St Andrews and there’ll be a comforting handshake saying ‘well done’ even though he didn’t win,” said McDowell after his 75 for a one-over par tally.
“We said earlier in the week that if he got in, we would play a practice round together so I will be now looking forward to that.”
McDowell was heading straight to St. Andrews while his father Kenny was heading home to Portrush to support son Gary who will today attempt to qualify for the North of Ireland Amateur.
Lowry bounced back from also dropping three shots in two holes early one to birdie half of his closing six holes in a 71 for seventh place at six-under par.
Gareth Maybin resisted the urge to travel to St. Andrews last night ahead of his first ever British Open appearance and the second Major in succession for the Ballyclare golfer.
Instead Maybin’s main focus was enjoying coverage of the World Cup football final.
He played the final Loch Lomond in the company of Holland’s Joost Luieten and signed for a 72 that was a mix of three birdies but also five bogeys for an eventual six-over par tally.
“Most of my game except for my short-game was pathetic this week,” he said.
Damien McGrane carded a 72 for a one-under par tally while Peter Lawrie rounded off the Irish contingent also with a 72 for a one-over par score.
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