The 2011 Open Championship began and ended in wind and rain in the best tradition of links golf while delivering all the drama and excitement of a major championship tournament in between. From holes in one (Dustin Johnson, Tom Watson) to dance-inspired stretching routines to the sublime final round of victor Darren Clarke, it was an event to remember. Clarke, 42, became the third player from Northern Ireland to win a major in the last thirteen months (following Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy at the 2010 and 2011 US Open, respectively) by shooting a total score of 275 (-5) on the beautiful Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England.
Phil Mickelson mounted a furious front nine charge - including four birdies and one eagle - on the final day that saw him at -6 after ten holes and tied for the lead before notching four bogeys on the back nine to fall back to -2 and a tie for second with Dustin Johnson, who was also neck and neck with Clarke for a time but lost his chance at a first major with an out of bounds shot on 14. It was Mickelson’s best finish in an Open Championship and - perhaps - the best performance on a links course in his career.
Not too long ago we discussed on this very website the question if Phil would ever become a good wind player. Last week he showed us that he already is among the very best…
A tournament already steeped in over a century of lore and memories, the Open of 2011 produced a few new images to add to the scrapbook of golf history. Miguel Angel Jiminez demonstrated the stretches that keep his joints warm while assuring us that he kept his “insides” warm with a cigar. U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, although finishing with a disappointing +7, spoke from the past in a touching childhood television appearance about his hero, Darren Clarke, and then got to watch his idol lift the Claret Jug. We didn’t get to see another miracle performance by Tom Watson this year but he did excite us again with a hole in one on Friday and, of course, the weather did its part by providing blistering morning wind followed by sunny afternoon calm mixed with “sharp” rain throughout the tournament. Truly, one of the best Open Championships to be played in quite a while.
Local favorite Tom Lewis won the silver medal for low amateur by shooting a 65 on the first day before eventually succumbing to the difficult course with a final +9. Top rated Englishmen Luke Donald and Lee Westwood missed the cut along with Clarke’s fellow Northern Irishmen Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington. It was Darren Clarke’s first major championship victory. All eyes now turn to the season’s final major, the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia, August 11-14.
Landon Cocks (43) lives in Cincinnati, Ohio and is a lifelong golfer. Read more of his golfing thoughts and opinions at www.jlandoncocks.com