Fan favorite Darren Clarke captures first British Open title
The British Open has always been known for insane weather conditions and tough golf courses. 2011 was no exception, as wind and rain confused PGA contenders and opened the door for an grizzled veteran to win the championship.
Forty-two-year-old Northern Ireland native Darren Clarke didn't play perfect golf, but did just enough to become the first player over age 40 in seven years to win a major title. Clarke finished 5-under-par and shot a 73 in the final round to hold off contenders Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, and Thomas Bjorn.
Clarke may have been known to hardcore golf fans, but for casual viewers of the sport, this tournament was his introduction into the mainstream sports world. Unlike U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy, Clarke is not the next young golfing superstar—instead, he resembles John Daly. Cigarettes and alcohol fuel Clarke more than workouts and nutrition, which makes him relatable to fans. But will hardcore purists take him seriously?
Now fans wonder if Clarke could make a run at multiple victories at major championships, or if he will fade into obscurity. McIlroy was dubbed as the next Tiger Woods—captivating the sports world—but wasn't in contention during the final round. With American golfers on a significant drought in major championships and zero sign of Woods returning to the sport any time soon, golf is beginning to lose its popularity. For the PGA's sake, Clarke's victory better not be a one-hit wonder.