Darren Clarke shows young guns the way

American Rickie Fowler today firmly outshone fellow young star Rory McIlroy but still found a Northern Ireland golfer barring his way to Open Championship glory.

McIlroy arrived at Royal St George's as the hot favourite to add the Open title to his US Open triumph at Congressional last month, and thereby to become the youngest player to lift the Claret Jug since 1893.

But it was playing partner Fowler, 22, who handled the wind and rain in style with a 68 to set a clubhouse target of two under par for Ulsterman Darren Clarke, the overnight joint leader and a mentor to McIlroy, to beat.

In contrast, McIlroy struggled to a four-over 74 with one birdie, three bogeys and a double-bogey seven at the 14th, where he pushed his drive on the par five out of bounds.

That left the youngster from Holywood nine shots behind compatriot Clarke, who was one under for his round and five under overall with four holes remaining.

Clarke made a flying start with a birdie at the first from 15 feet, but missed from less than half the distance for another on the next and even shorter on the fourth.

Three putts on the fifth cost Clarke a bogey, but he bounced back with a birdie on the downwind seventh before dropping another shot on the eighth.

The 42-year-old had shrugged off the forecast bad weather as "just another Portrush" day, but in truth the conditions had eased considerably for the later starters.

Clarke took advantage with a birdie on the 12th and at five under par was one clear of American Dustin Johnson, with first-round joint leader Thomas Bjorn a shot further back.

Earlier in the day, 61-year-old Tom Watson used all his experience to defy the conditions and card a brilliant 72.

Watson, who carded the 15th hole-in-one of his career in the second round yesterday, opened with six straight pars before taking advantage of the downwind par-five seventh, finding the green in two and two-putting for birdie.

Fellow American Gary Woodland had been the only other player to break par on the front nine at that point, the 27-year-old out in a remarkable 33 after birdies at the fifth and seventh before coming home in 41.

Three bogeys in five holes on the back nine halted Watson's progress, but the five-time Open champion holed from 20ft for birdie on the 16th before three-putting for bogey on the 18th from just short of the green.

It took almost two hours before his four-over-par total was beaten by France's Raphael Jacquelin, but with the weather easing, a repeat of 2009 - when Watson had a putt to win on the 72nd hole before losing in a play-off - was out of the question.