Darren Clarke fired an even par 70 to win the 2011 British Open by three strokes.
Phil Mickelson charged to a tie with a front nine 30 before fading. Joining him in second was Dustin Johnson, who also faded down the stretch. Clarke was an improbable winner at age 42 and well past his prime. Rory McIlroy was never in contention, finishing at seven over par.
Here are 10 things that we learned following Sunday at the British Open.
Sergio Garcia looks rejuvenated and happy to be playing golf again. It seems the break has helped him a great deal.
While his double bogey following four straight birdies reminded us that he’s enigmatic, it’s good to see him playing well again. He still has immense talent and shouldn’t be counted out yet.
His final round 68, along with an improved attitude, showed that Garcia's downfall was short lived, and he has plenty of good golf left.
Golf is not kind to those around age 50.
Davis Love III, Tom Lehman and Miguel Angel Jiminez all faded on the weekend after strong 36 hole performances. There’s a reason Jack Nicklaus and Julius Boros have not been matched. It is simply very difficult for an older golfer to play four rounds good enough to win on the biggest stage.
Lehman shot a final round 75, Jiminez a 78. Love lead the trio with a 72.
Tom Watson, at age 61, should be struggling to compete in Senior Tour events. Instead, he’s succeeding against players 30 or even 40 years younger than him. Not since Sam Snead has a player of this age shown the ability to compete in majors on numerous occasions.
Watson has made four cuts in the last six majors he’s entered. That is not a fluke performance; he legitimately has the talent to hang with the younger players. We may not see anything like this again in our lifetime.
Royal Portrush is considered one of the best courses in the world. It ranks higher than many of the courses in the Open rotation. With three major champions from Northern Ireland in the last six majors, it deserves to host a British Open.
It’s time to return to Royal Portrush, which hosted one Open in 1951. Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke deserve an Open in their home, and Britain owes it to them.
Rory McIlroy needs to work on playing in windy conditions. He blew a 36 hole lead earlier this year at the Dubai Desert Classic when the winds picked up. He was in good position entering the weekend at even par but finished at seven over.
While The Open is a unique event, McIlroy needs to improve his play in the wind to reach his potential.
After his final round McIlroy stated, "I'm not a fan of golf tournaments that the outcome is predicted so much by the weather. It's not my sort of golf."
This will likely be a public relations controversy, as he’s essentially saying he doesn’t like the Open. While he was being completely honest, it was probably not such a good idea.
Dustin Johnson has now contended at three majors in the last two years. With this track record, it figures that the 27 year old should break through.
However, questions about his mental makeup will remain. After getting to within two strokes of Clarke, Johnson double-bogeyed the par five 14th hole. This follows his 82 at the 2010 US Open, when he had the lead after 54 holes.
It also comes after the grounded club penalty cost him a chance at the 2010 PGA Championship.
Phil Mickelson showed that he is capable of playing links golf. He played steady golf through the first three rounds and was in contention entering Sunday. Going six under through the first 10 holes on atrocious conditions on Sunday was remarkable.
Hitting three quarter shots, Phil kept the ball low and putted exceptionally well. We also saw him collapse on the back nine. Again, it’s another major where he just wasn’t good enough.
While asking him to catch Darren Clarke was a bit much, his sharp reversal reminds you of past collapses. Had he just held serve at even par on the back nine it would have tied him with Clarke.
The inconsistent round shows how talented Phil is, but also what has held him back his entire career.
Darren Clarke made two early par saves that were crucial. When Mickelson tied him at five under, he responded with an Eagle of his own to regain a two stroke lead. He did not record a bogey until the 17th hole.
Darren Clarke showed what made him a top 10 player a decade ago—his ability to execute under pressure. He did, after all, defeat Tiger Woods in 2000 at the World Match Play. This is a man who’s experienced tragedy in life but still has ice in his veins.
Darren Clarke had not recorded a top 10 in any major since 2001. He’s played 20 British Opens without tasting victory and had never won a major.
He is more than 10 years past the prime of his career. There was no reason to expect him to win coming in. That is often the story at the British Open in recent years.
With Tom Watson and Greg Norman contending seriously, winners like Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton and Louis Oosthuizen, it is clearly the wildest major of the bunch right now.