Darren Clarke comes apart

Epic meltdown hands Lonard first PGA Tour victory

Posted: Monday, April 18, 2005

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Darren Clarke needed just four words to sum up his Sunday collapse in the MCI Heritage.

''Anybody got a beer?'' the Irish star asked.

The dazed Clarke will not soon forget his startling run of bogeys and double bogeys in a closing 76 that handed Australia's Peter Lonard his first PGA Tour title.

''I can't believe I've done what I've done,'' Clarke said.

Clarke, 9 over on the final 13 holes after birdieing four of the first five to take a four-stroke lead, was tied with Lonard entering the final hole.

The drama ended quickly, though, with Clarke losing his ball after pulling his approach into the thatchy beach area next to the green en route to a double bogey. Fans shouted to Clarke, Lonard, their caddies and officials who searched for the wayward shot without success.

Clarke eventually trudged back to the fairway to finish off his double bogey while Lonard, safely on the green in two, chomped a granola bar waiting out his landmark win.

''Obviously, I didn't win it the way I wanted to win it today,'' Lonard said. ''But at the end of the day, if you win, you win. That's what I'm going to take out of it.''

Clarke, looking for his first PGA Tour win in two years, was instead left stunned. After all, He played the first 36 holes in a career-best 12-under 130.

Lonard's final-round 75 gave him a 7-under 277 total, while Clarke's 76 dropped him into a tie for second at 5 under with five-time Harbour Town winner Davis Love III (71), Jim Furyk (69) and Billy Andrade (68).

Lonard was down by four, then led by one after the eighth hole. He again fell behind Clarke by two shots after a bogey on the 12th hole. But three holes later, Lonard was ahead by a stroke and clung to the victory.

Clarke's play was almost as wild has his neon red shirt and multicolored striped pants.

He birdied four of the first five holes to get to 14 under and threatened to turn a tight match into a blowout. Then came bogeys on the sixth and seventh holes and a double bogey on the eighth after a drive into a pond on the left.

Things got more bizarre for the native of Northern Ireland on the back nine. It appeared as though he had steadied himself when a birdie on the 12th hole gave him a two-stroke lead.

However, Clarke came back with a double-bogey 6, landing in a trap close to the wood facing in front of the 13th green, then failing to get out when he hit architect Pete Dye's famous planks.

On the next hole, the par-3 14th, Clarke's tee shot went behind the green and his approach rolled past the cup and appeared certain to land with a splash in the pond that surrounds the green. However, his ball stuck on the last split in the weathered wood for a bogey.

''Things happen out here that you don't think are going to happen,'' Clarke said. ''I didn't think I was going to shoot whatever I shot today.''

It was a crazy finish for Lonard, who opened with a career-best 62 on Thursday, then fell six shots behind Clarke with a 74 in the second round. Lonard rebounded on Saturday with a 66.

On Sunday, Lonard's 75 was the highest final round by an MCI Heritage winner.

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