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Clarke plays it smart to stay in contention



Good start: Darren Clarke is top of the leaderboard with John Kingston (Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

Good start: Darren Clarke is top of the leaderboard with John Kingston (Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Good start: Darren Clarke is top of the leaderboard with John Kingston (Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

Darren Clarke believes “smart” golf will win at Sunningdale this week after the Dungannon man put himself in a share of the lead after the opening day of the Senior Open.

The Northern Irishman is tied atop the leaderboard after the first round alongside South Africa’s John Kingston after the pair both shot five-under 65s, with the leaders holding a one-shot advantage over 11-time seniors Major champion Bernhard Langer, Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez and Wales’ Stephen Dodd.

Clarke, who is aiming to win his first seniors Major and become only the fourth man to win The Open and the Seniors Open, dropped just one shot on his way to his 65, picking up six birdies to put himself on top of the standings, and he believes not attacking the course could be the key to success.

“I think you’ve got to respect Sunningdale. You’ve got to play smart here,” said the 52-year-old.

“It’s important to hit it on the fairways. That can be any week, but I’ve played here enough to know that there’s certain flags that you go for and there’s certain flags that you don’t go for.

“I played smart. I hit away from flags to the middle of the greens and gave myself some chances. I kept giving myself chances there in the last few holes. Didn’t make anything towards the end but just played smart. I think the winner is going to have to play smart this week.”

Meanwhile, Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow both started solidly at the ladies’ penultimate Major of the year the Amundi Evian Championship in Evian-les-Bains, France — as Maguire fired a two-under 69, while Meadow carded a level-par 71 in her opening round.

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The lead is held at six-under by Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn and the USA’s Yealimi Noh after they both shot 65s, with that enough to give them an early one-shot lead over a group of four players sitting at five-under.

On the European Tour, Cormac Sharvin has work to do to make the cut at the Cazoo Open at Celtic Manor in Wales after a four-over 75 in his opening round, with Vincent Norrman and Nacho Elvira holding the lead at seven-under.

Meanwhile, 11 Ulster players have reached the match play section of the South of Ireland Amateur Championship at Lahinch.

Galgorm Castle teenager Joshua Hill will go into the knockouts — which start with the first two rounds today — as the third seed after finishing at nine-under for the two rounds, while Malone’s Matthew McClean will be sixth seed after finishing six-under.

They will play Mark Mullan (Rosslare) and Anton O’Callaghan (Tramore) respectively in the last-64, with Royal Dublin’s Max Kennedy and Athlone’s Thomas O’Connor finishing as the leading qualifiers at 11-under.

At the European Ladies Amateur, Kirkistown Castle’s Beth Coulter is seven shots off the lead at the halfway stage after a level-par 72 at Royal Park I Roveri in Italy left her one-under for the tournament.

Sweden’s Sara Kjellker leads at eight-under and holds a three-shot advantage over her fellow countrywomen Meja Örtengren and Beatrice Wallin.

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