I remember wishing Darren Clarke wouldn't win the British Open. It's a memory that quickly took a 180, as I found myself pulling for the Irishman down the stretch last year. It wasn't that I had anything against Clarke, I just really wanted Phil Mickelson or Dustin Johnson to get a win for the U.S. I had a sliver of hope that Anthony Kim was making a career comeback at the right time or Rickie Fowler was making the leap in front of our eyes at such a young age.
Clarke was resilient last year and his stellar play caught and emotion that Sunday afternoon just enough to drop my allegiance and realize the best story was for Clarke to raise the Claret Jug. It's a great, historic trophy and Clarke was the right man to take it home for the year. I was surprised - not disappointed - to hear Clarke, renowned for always being up to raise a pint, never put a drop of liquid to enjoy out the of the cup because he respected it to much. It made me happy that I pulled for him a year ago. It was funny to learn he got his replica of the trophy and filled that one up for a toast (you can get your own for a cool $129.99 here). I considered it for a long time before remembering I have a wedding to pay for in a couple months.
Reflecting on the 2011 British Open has got me excited for this year's edition. As with every golf tournament, it's the questions that linger that drive the anticipation for the major championship...
Will Tiger be on a high or low at the right time to win?
What is Phil Mickelson's game going to look like?
Is there a chance that Clarke can find magic again and repeat?
Can we really consider Tom Watson a contender?
Is it time for Sergio Garcia or Lee Westwood to get the proverbial major monkey off their back?
How many golfers are going to lose their opportunity for finding one of the 206 bunkers and not getting out in one try?
What is the state of Bubba Watson's mental golf game?
Is there any chance in the world John Daly makes some noise beyond the loud pants he'll be wearing?
I could go on forever, or worse, I could actually try to answer these questions and extend this column by thousands of words, but what's the point? All of those questions will be answered by the end of Sunday and another form in past tense will take there place. Golf is a game of questions in which all are not answered. That's why we pay attention. The intrigue never dies and this British Open is far from lacking intrigue.
1. Rory McIlroy
2. Tiger Woods
3. Zach Johnson