Darren Clarke does not have the odds on his side when he tees up in the final round of this year’s Open Championship.
The popular 42 year-old from Dungannon might not want to know but, in the last six Major Championships, the 54-hole leader has gone on to win on only two occasions.
That run started at the 2010 Masters when Clarke’s great friend, Lee Westwood, went into the final round with the lead but went on to finish second behind Phil Mickelson, despite posting a final round of 71. Dustin Johnson held the advantage at the subsequent US Open but he imploded over the opening stretch and eventually limped home in 82 to share eighth place behind Clarke’s compatriot, Graeme McDowell.
The good news for today’s leader is that last year’s Open Champion, Louis Oosthuizen, did much better when confronted with the 54-hole lead at St Andrews 12 months ago. He went into the last round with a four shot lead and, in the end, calmly compiled a 71 to cruise to a seven shot victory over Westwood.
Normal service was resumed the following month at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. American, Nick Watney, was in the driver’s seat after 54-holes but carded a final round 81 to slip into a share of 18th place behind winner, Martin Kaymer.
This year, the 54-hole leaders, or in this case leader, have enjoyed mixed results. Step forward new Irish sensation Rory McIlroy. At the Masters, the 22 year-old from Holywood, Northern Ireland, started out front but ballooned to a highly-public 80 to finished tied for place behind champion, Charl Schwartzel.
However, much to his credit, McIlroy turned the tables a couple of months later at the US Open at Congressional CC. He went into final round out in front and this time held his nerve with a splendid 69, finishing a massive eight shots ahead of Australian, Jason Day.