The Open Championship, or simply The Open (sometimes referred to as the British Open outside the United Kingdom), is the oldest of the four major championships in professional golf. It is the only "major" held outside the USA and is administered by The R&A, which is the governing body of golf outside the USA and Mexico. The Open is played on the weekend of the third Friday in July. It is the third major to take place each year, following The Masters and the U.S. Open, but preceding the PGA Championship. The current champion is Darren Clarke who won the 2011 Open Championship.
The event takes place every year on one of nine links courses in Scotland or England (the event has been held once in Northern Ireland, but Royal Portrush is no longer on the rotation). In 2011, The Open will have a prize fund of £5.0 million, with £900,000 going to the winner, an increase of £150,000 over the previous three years. Historically, The Open's prize money was consistently the least of the four majors; but from 2002 to 2008 it was the highest.
The event is a 72-hole stroke play tournament with a cut after the first 36 holes limited to the top 70 players and ties. Uniquely among the four major championships, the Open features a four-hole playoff for all golfers tied at the end of regulation, with the playoff continuing into sudden death holes if players remain tied after four holes. (The PGA uses a similar three-hole playoff.)