Clarke celebrates Open win with eyes on future

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke holds the Claret Jug troffy beside the 18th green after he won the Open Golf Championship on Sunday, at Royal St George's Sandwich, England, Monday, July, 18, 2011.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke holds the Claret Jug troffy beside the 18th green after he won the Open Golf Championship on Sunday, at Royal St George's Sandwich, England, Monday, July, 18, 2011.

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SANDWICH, England – Darren Clarke didn’t get any sleep following his breakthrough victory in the Open Championship.

He partied until dawn.

When you’ve waited 20 years to get your name on the old Claret Jug, the last thing on your mind is sleep. Clarke was too busy celebrating to think of hitting the pillow.

“I’ve not been to bed yet,” Clarke admitted when he turned up bleary eyed at Royal St. George’s the morning after the night before the biggest win of his life. “There’s no surprise really, is there? It’s now 10 past 9:00 and I probably won’t get any sleep until tomorrow at some stage. You have to enjoy it when you can.”

The Northern Irishman admitted to having a few libations after lifting the Jug, the trophy he’s coveted more than any other.

“I had quite a few pints, and quite a few beers and quite a few glasses of red wine, and it all continued until about 30 minutes ago,” he said. “It’s been a very good night.”

The party was set to continue when he returned to Royal Portrush to be hailed as the third son of Northern Ireland to lift a major since Graeme McDowell’s 2009 U.S. Open victory and Rory McIlroy doing likewise at Congressional last month. The Irish like to party, and they’ll gladly join Clarke in the celebrations.

However, the 42-year-old is going to need as much rest as he can get. His Open win re-launches a career that had looked to be on a downward spiral.

Clarke moved to 30th in the world after winning at Sandwich, a jump of 81 places from his 111th spot at the start of the week. That means he is eligible for every big tournament there is. He can start pencilling WGC events into his schedule.

More importantly, he can look forward to another five years of playing all the majors, and competing in the Open Championship until he’s 60.

Those are the rewards that go with winning the game’s oldest major championship.

Then there’s the money. Clarke lifted £900,000 for four days of work at Sandwich. He is set to receive a £2 million bonus for his major wins. Throw in the other financial rewards that come with winning a major, and an already rich man gets even richer.

There was a time when Clarke would have spent the money on another fast car. Not now. Older and wiser, his goals have changed.

“I actually don’t have anything in mind because I’ve been there,” he said. “I’ve done that all before. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to buy whatever I want to buy and have all that. This time I’m a little bit older and a little bit more sensible. If I can put a little bit more aside for my boys in the future, then that’s what I’ll do, as opposed to looking after myself.

“For all my golfing career, to get my name on here (the Claret Jug) means more than anything. I’ll be fortunate that it will benefit me hugely financially, but it’s more to have my name on there, which is the most important thing.”

And he doesn’t plan to stop there.

“To win another couple of these (Open Championships),” said Clarke when asked about his future ambitions. “I’ve got to go back now, reassess and set some more goals. I don’t just want to rest on this. I still feel as if I can compete with the best players in the world.”

Pretty soon the partying will have to stop and the planning will have to begin.

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