Darren Clarke, who won the British Open Sunday, has committed to the 2012 Honda Classic, giving the Palm Beach Gardens event early commitments from the last two major championship winners.
Clarke joins fellow Northern Irelander and U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy in requesting and being granted an exemption into The Honda. Lee Westwood, currently the No. 2 player in the World Golf Rankings, also has committed early to the 2012 Honda, which will be played February 27-March 4 at PGA National Resort & Spa.
"We are absolutely ecstatic at the endorsement The Honda Classic is receiving from the top International players in the World," Honda Classic Executive Director Kenneth R. Kennerly said. "Darren's victory at The British Open coupled with Rory's victory at Congressional are two wonderful stories for the world of golf. We are thrilled that the golf fans of South Florida will be able to come out to PGA National next March and watch them play in The Honda Classic."
Clarke hadn't contended in a major in the past 10 years before his masterful performance at Royal St. George's. He wasn't even eligible for the previous three majors and had fallen out of the top 100 in the World Rankings.
"I'm a bit of a normal bloke, aren't I?" Clarke said. "I like to go to the pub and have a pint, fly home, buy everybody a drink, just normal. There's not many airs and graces about me. I was a little bit more difficult to deal with in my earlier years, and I've mellowed some. Just a little bit. But I'm just a normal guy playing golf, having a bit of fun.
"Pretty amazing right now. It's been a dream since I've been a kid to win the Open."
Ironically, it was the younger McIlroy, who fought off the psychological pains of a collapse at The Masters to win the U.S. Open, who reached out to Clarke with advice on winning a first major before Sunday's final round.
"He told me to be patient and keep doing what you're doing, keep playing the way you're playing,' " Clarke said."He was sort of telling me the same things I said back to him. As opposed to me being the old wise one and he was trying to give me all the information. So it was different."
Clarke holed a 12-foot par putt on the first hole, a downhill 8-footer for par on the third, and a 20-footer for eagle on the seventh to keep relative pace with Mickelson, who had tied him with a scorching front nine.
"Northern Ireland...... Golf capital of the world!!" McIlroy tweeted as Clarke played the last hole. When Graeme McDowell's 2010 U.S. Open victory is factored in, three of the last six majors have been won by Northern Irelanders.
Their assault on the golf world will continue at the 2012 Honda Classic.