For Darren Clarke, it was another case of jumping aboard golf’s No. 272 bus! Clarke had waited nine years since his 2011 Open Championship victory to win again on November 1st last year in capturing the TimberTech tournament and his maiden Champions Tour title in Boca Raton.
Now in his very first event since that long overdue success, the 52-year old Northern Irishman is celebrating in capturing a second straight victory with success in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. The Dungannon man earned victory thanks to a standout 8-under 64 to finish at 21-under par for an impressive two-shot triumph.
What a CLUTCH putt from Darren Clarke! ?
He’s secured a two-shot lead late @MEC_golf. pic.twitter.com/YgioAe0QiB
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) January 24, 2021
Clarke began the round tied for the lead on 13-under par but headed into the closing nine holes with birdies on 10 and 11, adding further birdies at 13 and 14, making a 10-foot par save on 15 before two more birdies on 16 and 17. He parred the 18th to cap the bogey-free round in the first event of the year.
“Just to win, to get in the winners and to win again is certainly very gratifying,” Clarke said. “I love the Champions Tour. The guys have been so good to me out here since I’ve been out here, so welcoming. And the standard is so high, just it’s incredible. The guys really flat out can play. I’ve been fortunate these past couple tournaments.
“I sort of broke through in Boca as you know and I sort of liked the feeling of that. But down in Abaco straight after, I couldn’t play Phoenix, had to go down to Abaco. Went down there with my group of mates down there, GFY Group. We play all the time. I give them lots of shots and all that sort of stuff and just keeping me competitive. I worked and practiced nearly every day from the break.”
The win is Clarke’s 23rd pro career title since a maiden victory in 1993 and earned him $310.000. And like he did in winning three months ago in Florida, Clarke put his bearded face into a TV camera to declare: “Hi guys this is Darren Clarke. I’ve just won again in Hualalai and that’s why I have these flowers on. It’s not my normal sort of attire.
“I won at Boca at the end of last year and went down to Abaco to have a bit of fun down there playing golf every day and practicing, and then to come along here to beautiful Hualalai and playing nicely again… ” Now raising a bottle of beer into the camera, with a cigar in the other, he whispered: “And the beer is very nice, as well. I think I may have a few more. Then back to his normal voice Clarke said smiling broadly: “But it’s been a brilliant week again. Everybody’s really enjoyed it and especially me.!
Retief Goosen, tied for the second-round lead with Kelly, closed with a 64 to finish second. The two-time U.S. Open champion took the first-round lead with a 62, then bogeyed the final two Friday in a 71.
“It was a good week,” Goosen said. “I’ve not played since, when was it, November we last played. So got off to a great start and yesterday killed me. That’s the thing about the Champions Tour, you’ve got to put three rounds together, otherwise you’re not going to make it. Today I gave it a good run, but ‘Clarky’ behind me played awesome.”
Kelly had a 68 to finish third at 17 under.Fred Couples shot a 67 to tie for fourth at 15 with Scott Parel (66), Kevin Sutherland (67) and Mike Weir (66). The 61-year-old Couples shot a 63 on Friday.
The tournament was the first of the year, but the season is a continuation from last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the tour for four months.
- Full scoring HERE
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