Clarke Gets Long-Awaited Irish Victory
Clarke fired a 66 to close at 15-under-par 273, bettering Thomas Bjorn (67), Ian Woosnam (68) and Padraig Harrington (70) by an honest three shots.
He replaces John OLeary as the last Irishman to win on home soil, as OLeary took the 1982 Irish Open at Portmarnock.
Clarke comments on his European Open win
While Clarke hadnt won in some 13 months on the European Tour, he was coming off a fine showing at last weeks Murphy's Irish Open, when he finished second.
On Sunday, it didnt take long for the Ferrari-loving golfer to get the juices flowing in front of hundreds of jovial fans at the K-Club.
Clarke birdied the par-5 4th and followed it up with an immediate birdie at the fifth to tie the lead at 11-under.
As quickly as he began moving in the right direction, however, it seemed Clarke may have hit the bricks at the par-4 6th, when he yanked his approach shot left and towards trouble.
Yet to everyones shock, Clarkes ball hit a greenside tree dead-on and then bounced back on the green to within six feet of the cup.
An embarrassed Clarke made quick work of his fortune, canning the putt for his third birdie in a row, and taking the outright lead.
Despite a bogey at the seventh, he again rebounded immediately with red numbers at the eighth and ninth to go out in 31, prompting thoughts of 1999, when Clarke went around the K-Club in a record 60 strokes.
While he wouldnt shoot 60 this time around, he did chalk up another birdie at the 11th and canned a ten-footer from just off the green at the par-5 16th for a fine 66 and minus-15 score.
Check out Darren Clarke's scorecard!
The roars and the support I had followed on from last week, the only difference here was that I gave myself a better chance to win and this time I took it, said Clarke, whose last win came at the 2000 English Open.
Take it, he did. Yet, Clarke wasnt the only one to win a prize Sunday.
Although Bjorn didnt win the tournament, he did not leave Dublin completely empty-handed.
Thanks to his closing eagles at the par-5 16th and 18th holes, the Danish star was the recipient not only of second-place money, but a 100,000 pound diamond pendant given annually to the golfer who scores the lowest on the par-5 holes. Bjorn ended at minus-12 on the long holes.
I think my wife is going to be a little bit happy, thats for sure, joked Bjorn. I dont know what to do with it right now, but Im sure well have a little bit of fun with it.
Woosnam also eagled No. 18, and recorded his best finish of the year. He also gave hope that at 43 years of age, he is not quite done winning on the European Tour. His last came at the 97 Volvo PGA Championship.
Harrington, too, still searches for his first win of the season. A two-time champion in 2000, the Irishman has now finished second five times this season.
While Jarmo Sandelin struggled Sunday with a 77, United States Open champion Retief Goosen shot 66 on the final day to end in a tie for sixth at 10-under.
Mark Mouland (68) also ended strong in outright fifth at minus-11, his best showing since the Argentina Open.
Full-field scores from the Smurfit European Open
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.