Clarke's 18th stroll befits a champion


Idle thoughts from an idle mind, saluting Japan's women for never quitting and giving a devastated country reason to rejoice.

It has been called the greatest walk in sports, the soon-to-be champion strolling up the 18th fairway on Sunday at the British Open.

No one in golf begrudged Darren Clarke that moment Sunday under leaden skies at Royal St. George's.

One of the truly nicest men in the game who overcame a personal tragedy and shrugged off more than five years of irrelevancy in only occasional major championship appearances, Clarke captured the Claret Jug Sunday in his 20th try. It was his first triumph in a major in 53 career starts and came at age 42.

Clarke wobbled a bit at the end, but it didn't matter after both Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson played themselves out of contention.

And his bogey-bogey finish was understandable considering the cushion he had and the emotions he was certainly fighting.

It didn't compare, though, with Sept. 24, 2006, the final day of the Ryder Cup matches at the K Club on Irish soil in County Kildare.

Just six weeks after the death of his wife, Heather, following her long bout with breast cancer, Clarke closed out Zach Johnson of the United States on the 16th green to wrap up a 3-0 match record as a captain's pick for the Euros, who rolled to an 18 1/2-9 1/2 victory.

There wasn't a dry eye to be found that day and Clarke acknowledged again Sunday that someone was watching from above.

She certainly would have been proud of his performance at St. George's.

And now, Northern Ireland will celebrate again as Clarke's win follows those by Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in the last two U.S. Opens. This should be a heck of a party, led by Clarke himself with a glowing cigar and the Claret Jug filled to the brim with a dark, dense stout, maybe a Guinness but possibly a Beamish or Murphy's for a man of sophisticated taste.

As Clarke said Sunday, he likes "a bit of the beverage."

It's a safe bet he'll enjoy it as much as the rest of us enjoyed his walk up No. 18 and such a popular victory.

Jack Nicklaus is not competing in the upcoming U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club, but his namesakes will be in the neighborhood. Toledoans B.J. and Connie Reichert welcomed identical twin sons on March 9. The firstborn is named Jack and his brother is Nicklaus.

They are the grandsons of Jim and Terri Reichert and the great-grandsons of legendary Rossford High basketball coach Cot Marquette and his wife, Marian.

Down 3-0 to the White Sox Sunday and staring at being swept at home, Tigers' skipper Jim Leyland had good reason for a sigh of relief when Victor Martinez and Carlos Guillen produced big hits in the sixth inning that led to a 4-3 Detroit victory.

In his sixth season, Leyland's teams have posted a 303-230 record before All-Star breaks but are just 171-202 after them.

A late swoon cost the Tigers a playoff berth in 2009, and they opened the second half 0-6 last season while tailing off to a .500 record and a third-place finish in the AL Central.

Sunday's victory may have kept doubt from creeping into the locker room and pushed the Tigers back into a virtual tie for first place with Cleveland.

There's a long way to go, but it could prove to be the biggest win of the season for Detroit.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: or 419-724-6398

Hack talks sports with Mark Benson on WXKR (94.5 FM) Thursday mornings at 8.