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Move over Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke is now leading man


Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke stole the show on young gun Rory McIlroy yesterday to share the halfway lead in the Open Championship.

The Dungannon man left his younger Ulster colleagues in the shade after replicating Thursday's performance with another round of 68 to finish on four under par.

It was a brighter day at Royal St George's Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent, and a confident attitude helped the 42-year-old to lead the pack, but Clarke knows conditions are set to worsen over the weekend.

"It would mean an awful lot (to win his first Open title) but obviously this is only after two rounds - there is an awful long way to go yet," he said.

"And I believe the forecast for the weekend is very, very poor. I quite look forward to that but the course is going to play very, very tough."

A win for Clarke would mean a hat-trick of majors for Northern Ireland's golfers in the past two years, after the back-to-back US Open wins by Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.

Clarke revealed that a late putting lesson with an old friend was the secret behind his resurgence this week and that showed in a moment of brilliance on the green at the seventh hole,which earned him a stunning eagle thanks to a 90ft putt.

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His spirits were high at the start of his second round yesterday after confessing a fan had whistled to him as he was bending over while stretching.

He joked: "I hope that was a lady but he whistled again, same guy.

"I'm doing something all wrong."

Luck may be on the side of the Clarke family, though, as Darren's father Godfrey managed his own golfing triumph last week, landing a hole-in-one.

McDowell's chances of success were extinguished last night, after dropping shots at six holes to finish seven over par and he failed to make the cut for the final two rounds.

But 22-year-old McIlroy isn't out of the running yet after managing a slightly more convincing effort than his underwhelming first round, finishing on level par.

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