Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Clarke turns back the years at Open

Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke, as proud as anyone about what is already a golden era for Irish golf, has the chance this weekend to add another chapter to the remarkable story.

Three weeks after he pulled out of a tournament in Germany to celebrate Rory McIlroy's runaway US Open win, the 42-year-old shares the halfway lead in The Open with American Lucas Glover. Clarke has not had a top 10 finish in a major for a decade, but a second successive 68 at Royal St George's takes him into the weekend on four under par.

And with the two first day pacesetters, English amateur Tom Lewis and Dane Thomas Bjorn, having rounds of 74 and 72 respectively, it is the hero of the 2006 Ryder Cup who will occupy centre stage when he tees off on Saturday.

A double bogey from the Ulsterman on the fourth, where a chip came back down a steep slope, was cancelled out by an eagle putt of around 80 feet just three holes later. Four birdies and three bogeys followed, but he had the lead in the clubhouse on his own for a mere 10 minutes. Glover was in the following group.

Lewis saw 61-year-old playing partner Tom Watson hole-in-one at the sixth in the day's most electrifying moment, but by scoring nine more than his lowest-ever round by an amateur in the event the 20-year-old from Welwyn Garden City dropped out of the top 10.

Bjorn is now joint third with Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, German Martin Kaymer and American Chad Campbell.

Most early eyes had been on Young Tom and Old Tom - Lewis and five-time champion Watson. Watson's ace with a four-iron was the 15th hole-in-one of his life, his four-iron hopping in on the first bounce.

The 2009 runner-up - he would have been the oldest major champion by 11 years if only he had parred the final hole at Turnberry - continued to amaze with a 70. On two over he made his 24th Open cut and extended his own record as the oldest man to play all four rounds.

Lewis had a television camera in his face the moment he left the practice putting green and, not surprisingly in the circumstances, could not repeat his first day heroics. He bogeyed the final two holes, avoiding going out of bounds on the last only by hitting a post, but he is still in the title hunt.

McIlroy remains a threat at level par after a 69, but world number one Luke Donald bogeyed the last four holes and crashed out on six over. World number two Lee Westwood fared little better shooting a 73 to drop to four over, just outside the cut. The Worksop golfer headed home early alongside major-winners Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington.

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