When play was called off for the day because of bad light, with 34 players still to complete their rounds, Clark led by two strokes from the former Walker Cup player, Jeremy Robinson. Two Swedes, Peter Hedblom and Gabriel Hjerstedt, were back in the clubhouse a further stroke behind.
Clark has not won since the 1988 English Open, and missed the first seven weeks of last season recovering from his operation. 'I was on tablets most of last year, and now I've stopped taking them I can feel the elbow again,' he said. 'A dead feeling in my fingers returned yesterday as well.'
He stood four under par at the start of the day and first had to play the final four holes of his first round, held over from Thursday because of bad light. A birdie on the long seventh - his 16th - made him the joint leader, but he then found sand on the par-three eighth and had to be satisfied with a round of 68. An hour later he was back on the course and birdies came at the second, fourth and sixth holes.
Clark stretched his advantage to three shots with further birdies on the 11th and 12th. First he fired in a superbly judged approach to six feet, then he found the green at the 523-yard next with two irons, and he took two putts which put him nine under.
Brian Barnes, who struggled to a first-round score of 82, withdrew from the event yesterday. He had been suffering from a bad back.