Clarke turns $2,800 margin into millions

Darren Clarke receives 2 million pounds for his victory at the Open Championship.

Darren Clarke receives 2 million pounds for his victory at the Open Championship.

LONDON - The Darren Clarke parade arrived via helicopter in the British capital as the Northern Irishman accepted one of his many rewards for winning the 140th Open Championship.

With otherwise little fanfare -- certainly compared with Clarke’s having won his first major championship -- he received the presentation of a check for 2 million pounds (about $3.25 million) from Dunlop Clothing/SportsDirect.com, a longtime sponsor of Clarke’s, on the top floor of Lillywhites, a sports retailer based at Piccadilly Circus. That’s on top of the 999,540 euros (about $1.43 million) that he got for winning the Claret Jug.

Just days removed from winning the Open Championship, Clarke still was dealing with the enormity of his career highlight and whether he might join the PGA Tour.

“It will be nice to get back over there,” Clarke said. “I have won over there (2000 WGC-Match Play and 2003 NEC Invitational, now known as Bridgestone). Having won over there before and having been a member over there, I’ve missed playing on some of those bigger tournaments around the world. All of a sudden, I’m back into all of them again, so it’s fantastic.”

Would he join the PGA Tour? “Ask him,” Clarke said, pointing to longtime manager Chubby Chandler.

Chandler said he hadn't talked with Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

Will you be at The Players Championship?

“Ask him,” Clarke said with a smile, again pointing to Chandler.

“Not even worked that out yet,” Chandler said.

But Clarke did provide some guidance.

“The last thing I’ve been thinking about is what I’m going to do in the next year and whether I’m going to join or not join or what I’m going to do, so I don’t know,” Clarke said. “But it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to join again, if we decide it’s the right thing to do.”

After two days of celebrating in Sandwich, where he shot 5-under 275 at Royal St. George’s, and home at Portrush, Clarke finally found a bed and some rest Monday night after what he termed “exhaustion.”

Clarke attended a reception with friends Tuesday night at Royal Portrush that didn’t last too late into the night.

“I realized that I was coming to see a few of you gentlemen today,” a playful Clarke said of his reason for an early evening. “So I thought I’d better be a little more sensible than I was on Monday morning, so last night it was 1 o’clock, half 1.”

The fact that Clarke was able to qualify for the Open was a story in itself. Last year, the Ulsterman finished in the top 30 in the Race to Dubai by a mere 1,966 euros (about $2,800) over Matteo Manassero.

“I can’t remember the last putt at Dubai,” Clarke said. “I can remember I was itching to see the final money list to see if I made 30th.”

Eventually Clarke’s sister texted him with the good news, and he would parlay that into one of the most unlikely winners in major-championship history.

“Looking back now, to just sneak in by a very, very small margin and finish 30th and then get into the Open and be sitting here today with the trophy and that huge bonus from Dunlop, it’s just wonderful.”

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