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Outsider Darren Clarke wins British Open

Darren Clarke defied the odds and his 111th spot in the world rankings to win the British Open Championship with a three-shot victory at Royal St George’s on Sunday.
 
The 42-year-old from Northern Ireland won his maiden major title with a final round 70, finishing five under ahead of Phil Mickelson (68) and Dustin Johnson (72).
 
The day one leader Thomas Bjorn, the nearly man at this course in 2003, made 71 to take fourth at one under ahead of Chad Campbell, Anthony Kim and Rickie Fowler who tied for fifth place on even par.

Clarke’s win in this wet and windy part of south east England makes him the third golfer from Northern Ireland to triumph at a major.  Not bad for a nation the size of Connecticut.

Countrymen Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy won the last two United States Opens, but if anything this triumph was even more of an upset. Clarke, a veteran of the circuit since turning professional in 1990, became the first home winner of this championship for 12 years.

Clarke was challenged in earnest by longtime friend Mickelson, who historically struggles in links golf. Birdying the fourth, fifth and sixth before sinking a 25-footer for an eagle, Mickelson sounded the charge for America, recently enduring a dry run at the majors.

"Oh, man, that was some of the most fun I've had competitively," Mickelson said of his run that brought him to just one shot back of Clarke at the 11th. "I was just hitting the shot I was seeing every time, and the ball was rolling where I wanted it to."

But it was not to last. A bogey on the 11th put pressure on the 3-time Masters winner, and four more followed suit on the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th holes taking him out of the running.

Clarke who despite a long career had never previously won a major, putted like a dream and had the luck of the Irish when needed – particularly on the a tricky ninth where a shot bounced over a bunker onto the green.

Justice on the course for trying times off it, Clarke’s late wife Heather died of cancer in 2006 and leaving him to raise his two sons Conor and Tyrone, whom he paid tribute to in his post-match speech.

"In terms of what's going through my heart, there's obviously somebody who is watching down from up above there, and I know she'd be very proud of me. She'd probably be saying, I told you so," Clarke said. "But I think she'd be more proud of my two boys and them at home watching more than anything else. It's been a long journey to get here. It's incredible – it really is. It's for the kids."

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