Darren Clarke's victory in the 2011 British Open is one of the feel-good moments of the year in golf. Clarke's one of the best-loved players on either the PGA Tour or European Tour, and his first major championship provided both a very lucrative payday for him — $1.4 million in prize money — and a great excuse to eschew sleep for the company of fellow revelers at the bar.
Clarke's win also continued two strange trends in golf's majors. His victory stretched a string of majors won by different players to 12 in a row — Padraig Harrington won back-to-back majors in 2008 — and added a third trophy in the last 13 months to the ethereal Northern Ireland trophy case, joining the ones for U.S. Opens won in 2010 by Graeme McDowell and 2011 by Rory McIlroy.
The 2011 British Open also gave Phil Mickelson, who tied for second, his best career finish in an Open Championship, despite a back nine collapse on Sunday that wrecked his chances of winning. And it was the second straight top 10 in a major for Sergio Garcia, who now has 17 of them in his career; he's seemingly always around things like the British Open leaderboard, but simply never atop them.
Young guns didn't fare so well at Royal St. George's. Dustin Johnson finished tied for second, but only after joining Mickelson in essentially handing the Claret Jug to Clarke with poor play on the back nine in the final round. Rory McIlroy's bid to win consecutive majors scarcely got off the ground with an opening round 1-over 71 (of players in the top 15, only Anthony Kim and Raphael Jacquelin began the week with over-par rounds), and and his 74-73 on the weekend sank him to a tie for 25th.
Other rising stars in contention when Sunday's final round began — Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Lucas Glover — fell well back of Clarke by day's end. And Ricky Barnes, who shot 68 in his opening round, did nothing of note after, firing two 74s and a 78 to plummet down the British Open leaderboard.
In a victory for the older set, though, Tom Watson proved he can still acquit himself nicely while playing links golf, putting together a consistent 72-70-72-72 week to finish tied for 22nd — and one stroke ahead of McIlroy. Credit Watson's hole-in-one on Friday for some of that.
For more 2011 British Open news and results, stay with this StoryStream, visit SB Nation's golf hub, and check out our golf blog, Waggle Room. For full 2011 British Open scores, visit the official Open Championship leaderboard.