Darren Clarke wins British Open

Sandwich (England): Darren Clarke repelled a dynamic charge from Phil Mickelson to complete a runaway three-shot win at the British Open on Sunday, claiming his first major title and becoming the first home winner of the championship for 12 years.

The 42-year-old Briton picked up the coveted Claret Jug, a first prize of 900,000 pounds ($1.45 million) and an extra bonus of two million pounds from one of his sponsors after firing a level-par 70 for 275, five under par.

U.S. Ryder Cup team mates Mickelson (68) and Dustin Johnson (72) were tied for second place on 278.

Dane Thomas Bjorn (71), denied victory by a sad, late collapse when the event was last played at Sandwich in 2003, was fourth on 279.

Clarke, the overnight leader, looked nerveless at the start even though he cancelled out an early birdie at the second by dropping a stroke at the fourth.

Puffing calmly on a cigarette, seemingly oblivious to the 55 kms an hour winds and the squally showers whistling in from the English Channel, the Northern Irishman was unperturbed by Mickelson`s front-nine charge.

The American left-hander, who has flattered to deceive at the third major of the season with just one top-10 finish in 17 previous appearances, showed he meant business by blitzing his way to a remarkable best-of-the-tournament front nine of 30.

Ignoring the strongest winds of the week at Royal St George`s, Mickelson drew level with Clarke at the seventh hole when he rolled in a 20-foot eagle putt.

The former European Ryder Cup player, though, hit back immediately with a matching eagle at the same hole after sinking a 25-footer.

World number six Mickelson`s round then started to spectacularly unravel when he inexplicably missed from two feet at the 11th.

His putter continued to let down the four-times major champion and he missed from seven feet at the 12th and eight feet at the 14th as his challenge petered out.

While Mickelson was stringing together a series of bogeys, Clarke reeled off nine straight pars to the 16th and dropped strokes at the last two holes were almost immaterial as he emulated Paul Lawrie`s Open victory at Carnoustie in 1999.

In addition he became Northern Ireland`s third major winner in just over a year following the back-to-back U.S. Open victories by Graeme McDowell in 2010 and Rory McIlroy last month.

Clarke, playing in the British Open for the 20th time, also broke the record for the most appearances in the championship before securing a debut win.

The previous record was held by Zimbabwean Nick Price who registered his first victory at Turnberry in 1994 at the 15th time of asking.

Clarke receives no regular payment for wearing Dunlop clothes when he plays but, under his agreement with Sports Direct, he scoops a bonus of two million pounds for his first major win.

Johnson`s title challenge was wrecked when he went out of bounds with his second shot at the 14th.

Bureau Report

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