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CLARKE WINS SINGLES FINALS 3/0 AGAINST MULLINER, BUT MULLINER AND BAMFORD TAKE THE DOUBLES PRIZE
by Andrew Gregory


Since winning the WCF World Championship last year, Chris Clarke's winning record has advanced with the kind of inevitability that not so long ago characterized Robert Fulford's croquet career. Clarke was superb in the Solomon, unbeatable in the President's Cup, and serenely confident in the triumph at Sonoma Cutrer that gave him both world titles. Only the summit of the world rankings has eluded him, for he has already passed Robert Fulford and is only millimeters away from displacing Kiwi Aaron Westerby at the top - but this remains to be formally confirmed.

The British Open Championships concluded at the Hurlingham Club on Sunday, 13th July. The closing stages were contested by three Englishmen and a South African.

The first game of the best-of-five doubles final match was most exciting: Chris Clarke took the first break to four-back, but before his partner Robert Fulford could embark on the triple, Stephen Mulliner hit the lift, made one peel on Clarke's ball then cross-wired Clarke and Fulford at hoop 1, and laid up in third corner after six hoops. Fulford missed the 35-yarder, and Reg Bamford then played a most adventurous turn: peeling Clarke through his last two hoops AND his partner through three hoops. He even considered popping Fulford through hoop one to collect all four clips. He finished by pegging out Clarke and himself to leave Mulliner on 4-back v Fulford on 1.

The only flaw to Bamford's turn was leaving Mulliner's ball just 6 yards South of third corner. Eschewing the contact, Fulford lifted his ball to third corner and violently cut rush the other ball to within 8 yards of hoop one. Thence he established a two-ball break, which came to an untimely end on the wire of hoop 4. A relieved Mulliner scrambled home.

The remaining games in the match were not as competitive: 26 (Clarke TP); 26 (Fulford TP); 26 (Mulliner fails TP but Fulford's shooting is shot); 26 (Bamford TP). So the older team of Mulliner/Bamford took the doubles final from Clarke and Fulford by a one-game margin.

CLARKE TAKES SINGLES REVENGE IN THREE-GAME SWEEP OF THE MATCH

Clarke had the chance for instant revenge in the singles final. He had already beaten Bamford 3-1 in the semi-final, and faced Mulliner in the singles final. (Mulliner's semi-final victim had been - need you ask? - Fulford.)

The first game went to Clarke 25tp. The second game saw both players put down a triple peel, with Mulliner's error decisive: Clarke +2. The third game presented Mulliner with another easy opportunity, but this time his triple collapsed at 2-back with 2 peels done. Clarke took a ball round and peeled and pegged out Mulliner. The three-ball ending was more protracted than is usual at the top level, with Mulliner having more than one opportunity to progress from 2-back. None was taken, and after some tactical exchanges with both clips on 2-back, Clarke finally got a three-ball break to finish.

IT'S CLARKE'S FIRST WIN IN THE BRITISH OPEN

Of the four singles semi-finalists, Mulliner, Bamford and Fulford have each won the title three times. Clarke had never won it, and his determination was the greatest.

Chris Clarke now holds the two highest individual British honours: the President's Cup and the Coronation Gold Cup presented to him as winner for the British Open. Internationally, he reigns as WCF World Champion, and he won the Sonoma Cutrer tournament in May. We await the statisticians' pronouncement op who sits atop the computer rankings, but the (gold and) silverware already in Clarke's possession is singularly persuasive.

[Andrew Gregory has promised us a more detailed acccount of the British Open to follow in the coming week.]


 
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