Published July 17, 2012
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – EUROPEAN TOUR - BRITISH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Lancashire, England - Northern Ireland picked up its third major champion in just over a year as Darren Clarke won the 2011 British Open.
Clarke had three top-7 finishes at the British Open before his breakthrough at Royal St. George's. Clarke closed with a 70 to beat Americans Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson by a single stroke.
The Northern Irishman needed 54 majors to finally win his first.
Clarke's win followed his countryman Rory McIlory's victory at the U.S. Open. McIlroy took the title from fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, who had won the 2010 U.S. Open.
The last 10 major champions are broken down as such - 4 Americans, 3 Northern Irishmen, 2 South Africans and 1 German.
With Webb Simpson's come-from-behind win at the U.S. Open in June, the last nine major winners were first-time major champions. It also marked the 14th straight major without someone winning two of the big four championships.
This year's venue -- Royal Lytham & St. Annes -- is hosting the championship for the 11th time. It first hosted in 1926, then became a regular part of the rota in 1952
Past winners at Lytham are among the biggest names in golf history. Bobby Jones won the first Open Championship at Lytham, and was later joined by Bob Charles, Gary Player and two-time winner Seve Ballesteros as champions at one of the most bunkered courses in the rota.
Lytham has some 200 bunkers that will come into play this week.
Ballesteros' win in 1979 was made famous for his second shot out of the car park on No. 16. After receiving a free drop, the Spaniard knocked his second onto the green and made birdie from 30 feet out to all but seal the victory.
The last time Lytham hosted the championship, David Duval won by three strokes over Niclas Fasth. Clarke shared third place, four strokes back.
Bubba Watson and Simpson have won the season's first two majors. Watson hit a remarkable shot from the trees to beat former British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen at the Masters, and Simpson closed with a 68 at the U.S. Open to steal the title from Jim Furyk, McDowell and Michael Thompson.
ESPN has extensive coverage of all four rounds.
The European Tour heads to Austria next week for the Lyoness Open, where Kenneth Ferrie was playoff winner over Simon Wakefield last year.
TRUE SOUTH CLASSIC, Annandale Golf Club, Madison, Mississippi - For those that failed to make it into the season's third major, the remainder of the PGA Tour will be in Mississippi for the True South Classic.
Chris Kirk fired four rounds in the 60s last year and won by a single shot over George McNeill and Tom Pernice, Jr.
Kirk became the fifth rookie to win on the PGA Tour in 2011 as he earned his first tour title.
The field this week includes four former major champions - Mike Weir, Shaun Micheel, Mark Brooks and Lee Janzen. However, the highest ranked player in the field is No. 89 D.A. Points.
Golf Channel will cover all four rounds.
The PGA Tour heads north of the border next week for the Canadian Open. Sean O'Hair bogeyed the first playoff hole last year, but it was enough to beat Kris Blanks.
AMERICAN CENTURY CLASSIC, Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, Lake Tahoe, Nevada - Jack Wagner won the title last year with Tony Romo finishing in second place for the third time.
This year, Romo is the favorite with eight-time champ Rick Rhoden the second- best bet to win the title. The field includes first-timers Urban Meyer, Alex Smith and Jason Witten.
Four-time champion and former NHL standout Dan Quinn will compete at Lake Tahoe and then caddie for Ernie Els in multiple events in the second half of the PGA Tour season.
NBC Sports Network will have action on Friday and Saturday before NBC takes over on Sunday.