That moment when the eventual Open Winner, Darren Clarke’s ball clipped the top of a bunker and somehow escaped and thundered on safely down the fairway. There were at least two other ‘magical’ moments when the commentators suggested that Clarke had ‘the little people on his side’ (note: Clarke did, in fact, play sublime golf for four consecutive days and won by a comfortable 3 shots). It is a little known fact that Clarke was previously challenged by an army of Leprachauns who tried to help him in another competition in Ireland.
It was in 2006, on the 9th hole in the Carlton Golf Club in Kildare, when Darren Clarke found his ball deep in thick rough grass. Effectively, this would cost him one shot as all he could do was to hack out of the rough sideways and onto the fairway a few yards away instead of shooting straight at the green. He was winning by two shots with 10 holes to play. Suddenly the hooter sounded which meant all players had to leave the course and suspend their matches because of bad weather.
When he returned the next day, he discovered that his ball magically now had an almost perfect lie as it sat on top of the somehow flattened thick grass. It was suggested that the leprechauns had been at work overnight – he could now shoot directly at the green and save himself a shot. So he asked for a ruling and Clarke was informed that he could play the ball in its improved position and he should thank the ‘little people’!
Clarke felt bad as he knew that either the crowds of people had miraculously trodden the grass all around the ball or, indeed, the ‘little people’ had been at work. He chose not to take advantage and shoot for the green directly, but instead he played a short chip shot sideways onto the fairway – the same shot he would have had to play if he was still stuck in thick grass (effectively costing him an extra shot and narrowing his lead to just one shot).
Clarke later explained in a BBC interview: “When I went back out the area around the ball had been flattened. It was a much better lie than when I left it. I could have put it on to the front of the green from where it was, but my conscience would not allow me to do it so I just decided the best thing to do was chip out like I would have done the previous night. Honesty is part and parcel of the game and I could not have acted any other way.”
A magnificent, noble gesture from a true sportsman.
Nice guys do come first.
Congratulations Darren Clarke.
Notes: (1) This story is taken from the collection of short stories about sportsmanship: ‘Great Moments Of Sportsmanship – & extraordinary sports people ’ (2) You might like to read another stunning golf story about an Englishman in the USA called ‘Nice Guy Beats The Ref & the TV & Wins Forever (3) Sign up for email alerts when a new story is posted onto this blog – just add your email address in the box in the right hand side column.