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Clarke and Mickelson go toe to toe


Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson

After 22-year-old Rory McIlroy's US Open victory last month, Sunday was the turn of 40-somethings Darren Clarke and Phil Mickelson to head the battle for the 140th Open Championship.

Clarke, 42, took a one-shot lead into the final round at Royal St George's, and must have been delighted to cover the front nine in 33 shots despite more bad weather, but 41-year-old Mickelson had played the same stretch in just 30 shots to charge into contention for a fifth major title as he and Clarke began to pull away from the field.

Mickelson has managed just one top-10 finish in 17 Open appearances - third at Troon in 2004 - but looked to be benefiting from his decision to play this week as if he was starting from scratch. The world number six birdied the second, fourth and sixth before rolling in a 25-foot putt for eagle on the seventh to join Clarke in the lead.

Clarke had birdied the second and bogeyed the fourth, but then matched Mickelson's eagle on the seventh from similar range to reclaim a two-shot advantage.

Mickelson cut it to one with another birdie on the 10th, but then missed from just three feet for par on the 11th to fall two behind once more.

Spain's Sergio Garcia had set the clubhouse target on two over par after a 68 that threatened to be so much better.

Garcia carded four birdies in his first seven holes, but then ran up a double bogey on the eighth before two more birdies and two bogeys on the back nine.

Playing partner McIlroy finished seven over par after struggling to a 73 which saw him call a one-shot penalty on himself on the seventh green when his ball moved in a gust of wind as he addressed it.

From standing over a birdie putt he was suddenly facing a par putt, and the wry smile on his face suggested he had long since resigned himself to an unsuccessful week.