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The Open is under way – and Darren Clarke feels right at home

The 2011 winner gets a birdie at the first.

Darren Clarke hits the opening tee shot of the 2019 Open.
Darren Clarke hits the opening tee shot of the 2019 Open.

Former Open champion Darren Clarke relived former glories in front of an adoring home crowd after taking an early lead in the 148th championship.

The 2011 winner, given the honour of hitting the opening tee shot at 6.35am at Royal Portrush, holed a 15-foot birdie putt at the first.

Unfortunately the Northern Irishman could not take advantage of the par-five second after finding a bunker off the tee but remained top of the fledgling leaderboard on one under.

He was joined there by playing partner James Sugrue, the Amateur Championship winner from Ireland, who left his eagle attempt at the second just short.

With early-morning sunshine piercing the cloudy skies Clarke, who owns a house overlooking the course, was welcomed on the first tee to huge cheers

The 50-year-old has missed the cut in three of the last four years but, after sharing a few words with victorious Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, he got off to a confidence-boosting start by finding the fairway in breezy conditions.

More cheers accompanied his departure from the tee box with Clarke relaxed enough to stop to briefly chat to fellow former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley who was broadcasting live close by.

PA

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