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Sunday, 17 July 2011
 Darren Clarke celebrates the moment of victory  (Getty Images)
Darren Clarke celebrates the moment of victory (Getty Images)

Darren Clarke is preparing for a "very, very long" celebration after claiming his first Major title at the age of 42 in The Open Championship at Royal St George's.

Clarke carded a final round of 70 in tough conditions to finish three shots clear of American pair Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, with Denmark's Thomas Björn a shot further back in fourth - eight years after he missed out having been three shots clear with four holes to play.

"It's just incredible, I don't know what to say. I'm speechless," said Clarke, who lifted The Claret Jug at his 20th attempt. "I played okay today, I did what I needed to do.

"The last couple of holes I was trying not to make any stupid mistakes. I just tried to play really carefully and it was good enough to win."

Clarke was playing the 54th Major of his career and had not had a top ten finish in them for a decade, but did claim his 13th European Tour title in Mallorca in May.

"I won six weeks ago and the more you put yourself in winning positions the more comfortable you get with it and I've been very comfortable with myself this week," Clarke added.

Clarke's wife Heather died in 2006 after a long battle with cancer and the Ulsterman dedicated the win to their sons Tyrone and Conor.

"It's for the kids," an emotional Clarke said. "They played Royal Portrush this morning and were watching on TV."

As for the celebrations, Clarke added: "I think they will be very, very long and I'll be very hungover."

Speaking at the prize-giving ceremony, Clarke added: "It's been a long and bumpy road, I have had some good things happen to me and some bad things, but I've had so much support from an awful lot of people.

"I'd like to thank my parents and my fiancee Alison, and there's someone up there watching as well. To everybody, thank you very much."

Clarke is the third member of the International Sports Management (ISM) stable to win a Major this year, following the victories of Charl Schwartzel and Rory McIlroy in the Masters Tournament and US Open respectively.

And the head of ISM, Andrew Chandler, added: "There is a lot of talk of success and they will be trying for the clean sweep (at the US PGA Championship).

"Darren has had a lot of shots at it and you know time might be running out, and then it all happens."

Among the words of encouragement Clarke received before he went out were some from Tiger Woods - although he refused to say what they were.

Woods was an absentee from Sandwich and has not played since mid-May because of knee and Achilles injuries.

"I had a couple of really good messages from Tiger," said Clarke, at 42 the oldest man to hold the Claret Jug aloft since Roberto de Vicenzo in 1967.

"He was giving me a couple of bits of advice, which was brilliant."

Winner of 14 Majors, Woods has been good friends with Clarke throughout his professional career.

They clashed in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play in California in 2000. Clarke won it, but has had to wait until now for his first Major.

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