The Open 2014: Darren Clarke feels momentum returning

Fitter and slimmer than he has been for a long time, the Northern Irishman moved up the leaderboard with a 67

Royal Liverpool

It may not have lasted all the round but when the raining was hammering down first thing on a foul morning there was only one player to turn to. Darren Clarke spent two decades trying to fulfil a childhood dream to win the Open and finally achieved it in the wind and rain at Sandwich three years ago.

This was a Clarke sort of morning and although the conditions eased and it was eerily still out on the Hoylake links, the Portrush man took advantage to move up the Open leaderboard with a 67. It was a score matched only by American Jordan Spieth, who due to the “U-shaped” draw teed off after the worse of the weather but was actually further down the standings.

At five under par, Clarke got himself up to joint 12th, though his fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy finished the day out of sight with those two late eagles. For Clarke, however, a return to form is long overdue and a strong weekend will boost his confidence.

This was an historic day for the Open Championship with a two-tee start employed for the first time. It was also a sombre morning for golf following the death of Bob Torrance, the legendary golf coach and father of Ryder Cup star Sam, at the age of 82. Clarke was among many of the players wearing a black ribbon as a mark of respect.

 

After the round he was quick to recall the influence the senior Torrance had on his own career. At the 1990 Irish Open, Clarke played as an amateur alongside Sam Torrance and DJ Russell for the first two days. He explained: “I made the cut and Sam told me, ‘You need to turn pro sooner rather than later, and you need to start working with my dad’.

“And I did. I spent many days and hours with Bob on the range at Largs. He was a very special man. I would not be the golfer that I am without the help of Bob Torrance.”

Read more: McIlroy provides the fireworks
McIlroy and Clarke praise R&A decision

Clarke, lying in the bottom half of the 36-hole qualifiers, was among those dispatched to the tenth tee at the far end of the course to begin their rounds. Ironically, it was only when Clarke got back within sight of the clubhouse and the tented villages that he burst into life. There were seven pars to start before he rolled off four birdies in a row, at the 17th and 18th holes and then the first and the second. What he called a “silly three-putt” followed at the third but generally the putter was behaving itself much better than usual. He drained a 40-footer at the fourth and claimed a sixth birdie at the par-five fifth before ending the day with four more pars.

Clarke is a much slimmed down version than the ample figure that held the claret jug aloft in 2011. Fitter and healthier than for a long time, his golf may finally be catching up: “I’m not as fat as I was, so my timing was out. It has taken a little time to adjust. I kept leaving the club behind me but I’ve done a few things this week to correct it. I just need to knock in a few putts and get the momentum going. ”

Shane Lowry, Matteo Manassero and Stephen Gallacher wear black ribbons to honour the late Bob Torrance Shane Lowry, Matteo Manassero and Stephen Gallacher wear black ribbons to honour the late Bob Torrance Defending champion Phil Mickelson began the day on the same mark as Clarke, level par, albeit from the first tee but was left frustrated by a 71.  He was playing with compatriots Keegan Bradley, who had a 69, and Jason Dufner, who returned a 74. The threesome enjoyed their company together more than their scores. “It’s the most relaxed I’ve ever been in a major,” Bradley said.

Mickelson said: “It’s as easy as I’ve seen this course play. I threw away countless opportunities, so it was frustrating. ”

Clearly, like Clarke, the American is not satisfied with just one claret jug. “Last year means a lot,” he said. “But getting a taste of it, I just want more. It makes me work harder.”

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environment
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Life and Style
Fraud contributes 11p to a £2.00 box of half a dozen eggs
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital