Tastiest Sandwich - Simpson’s SOAPBOX

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke celebrates with the Claret Jug during the Winners Photocall on the 18th at Royal St George's, Sandwich. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 18, 2011. Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke yesterday became the oldest winner of the Open Championship since 1967 with a brilliant final round at Royal St George's. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information
Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke celebrates with the Claret Jug during the Winners Photocall on the 18th at Royal St George's, Sandwich. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 18, 2011. Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke yesterday became the oldest winner of the Open Championship since 1967 with a brilliant final round at Royal St George's. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information
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WHAT a week – with so much ‘Sandwiched’ into it...

Sport really does not get much better than golf’s Open Championship at Royal St George’s.

It was contested in a tremendous atmosphere, with not a hint of rancour throughout the four days.

All the contestants, from winner Darren Clarke down to the back-marker, were treated with respect and good will from the galleries.

The BBC covered it well, apart from what can charitably be called a few glitches, while there was a worthy champion, who has certainly paid his dues over the years and deserved every doorstep-sized Sandwich-slice of luck that undoubtedly came his way on Sunday.

There were many memorable highlights and Clarke’s win showed that talent can win out, regardless of body-shape.

All shapes and sizes can win at golf, whether you are king-size like a Billy Casper or Craig Stadler, or pencil-slim like Kel Nagle.

Maybe the only people who would quibble at Clarke’s win would be the anti-smoking group ASH, what with the man from Northern Ireland having a crafty fag every now and again.

What they would have made of Miguel Angel Jimenez’s warm-up, with a cigar the size of Ramsgate pier in his mouth, is anyone’s guess.

Actually it was a hoot!

Golf is a difficult game and you haven’t a hope of making a go of it without the necessary hand-eye co-ordination and single-minded dedication.

But one man who makes it look simple is Tom Watson, still performing reasonably close to the peak of his powers at the age of 61.

He ambles around the course, making the game look blissfully simple (when it isn’t!) and it wasn’t just the second round hole-in-one that made this latest venture to the Open, which he has won five times, so special.

How marvellous that he could share a three-ball with 20-year-old Tom Lewis, the young golfer named after him.

It is another of the joys of golf that two players separated by four decades can compete on equal terms in a sporting context.

Where else, pray, could they do that?

It would be wrong to saddle Lewis with the tag of being a Major winner in waiting but he clearly has a bright future.

His emergence is a tribute to the supply-line of talent that the English Golf Union can produce, a set-up that the Lawn Tennis Association can look at with envy ... or better still look at and learn from.

Then there was the performance of Phil Mickelson on the front nine on that final day.

Out in 30, he played like a man inspired and looked like a golfing force of nature until his game bizarrely and inexplicably imploded from the 11th hole.

The BBC are to be commended on their coverage, notwithstanding Mark James’s seriously misjudged remark about “fighting in Northern Ireland”, which led to a hasty on-air apology by the Corporation.

There was no Sam Torrance in the BBC TV team this year – reportedly, he was aggrieved at being left out of the US Masters coverage earlier in the year – but Jim Nance from America was a useful addition, who gave valuable insight into players from the other side of the Atlantic, which the British pundits did not offer.

The BBC seemed to be consumed by the fact that they were showing the Open in high-definition, hence the recurring use of the super slo-mo toy that picked out the helicopter rotars and the raindrops falling in pinpoint detail.

Maybe by the time the Open comes to Royal Lytham next year the BBC will show the championship in 3D, as they did with their Wimbledon coverage this year.

However, whichever way you view it, next year’s Open will be one to savour.

n ORGANISERS of the Irish Open at Killarney next week are rightly trumpeting the fact that Darren Clarke, Rory McIlory and Graeme McDowell – Major winners all – will be taking part.

What they are not shouting about quite so loudly is the fact that the golfers will be competing for half the prize money that was on offer last year – 1.5m Euros as opposed to 3m.

No amount of blarney can hide that sad, salient fact, which is symptomatic of the cold economic reality which is affecting Ireland in so many ways.