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
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower