Senior British Open: Darren Clarke halfway home to rare Open double

Darren Clarke aims to become just the fourth player to win both the British and Senior British.

Senior British Open: Darren Clarke halfway home to rare Open double

At 52, Darren Clarke has enough mileage on his career to know that the work is only halfway done if he’s to hoist a trophy on Sunday at the Senior British Open. A 67 on Friday at Sunningdale Golf Club (Old) in Berkshire, England, propelled the Northern Irishman and 2011 British Open champion to 8-under 132 at the midway point of the championship and a one-stroke lead over Germany’s Bernhard Langer and American Jerry Kelly.

“Just made good swings all the way coming in and kept giving myself opportunities,” he said. “Pleased that I finished on 8-under because the wind was swirling about a little bit.”

Clarke, who finished T-10 at his first Senior Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Annes two years ago, is making sure he doesn’t get ahead of himself in his quest to become just the fourth player to win both the British Open and Senior British Open.

“We’re all long enough in the tooth to know this is only two rounds and a lot of golf to be played yet. I would love to have this trophy sitting behind the Claret Jug. Got to go work on some iron play, my iron play wasn’t there especially around the front nine today but other than that drove the ball well,” he said. “Really (would like to be) in the mix come Sunday afternoon and would love to improve.”

Clarke has company from a couple Hall of Fame stalwarts as well as the leader in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup. Kelly, who won the American Family Insurance Championship and has finished outside the top-8 finishers once in his last eight starts, eagled the first hole on Friday and made four birdies en route to shooting 66.

“The putter was suspect and I kept on trying to do something, do something, and then finally the last four holes, I kept my head down, which you know I’m not known for,” Kelly said.

It worked and it was good enough to tie Langer, who continues to defy his age and contend for senior majors, for second at 7-under 133. The 63-year-old Langer already has collected a record 11 senior majors, and shows no signs of slowing down. He shot 67 on Friday, and said he’d be ready for rain and more wind on the weekend.

“Just plug along. It’s going to be miserable at times when it’s rainy and windy and all that but hey we’ve been there before,” he said. “Just try and make the best of it.”

Langer has done that and then some at the British Senior. In 12 previous starts, Langer has 11 top 10s, four wins and three runner-up finishes.

South African Ernie Els is tied for fourth at 6-under 134 with England’s Paul Broadhurst. While this is Els’ first Senior Open Championship, he always has thrived at playing links golf, winning the Open in 2002 at Muirfield and again in 2012 at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. He also has three runner-up finishes at the British and 11 total top 10s.

“It was a little bit more difficult today, a little trickier,” he said. “I feel like what I’m working on is kind of coming through a little bit. But Darren is a great frontrunner, played really well today, so got a lot of work to do.”

Els could also join elite company – with Gary Player, Bob Charles and Tom Watson – as the only players to win both the British and Senior British Opens. Asked when he starts thinking about winning a tournament, Els answered, “Hopefully on the last putt. I’m just trying to stay in it. I haven’t quite got my old game there, so I’m really fighting hard to stay in it. Darren seems like he’s striking it nice. I’m trying to stay in touch with him. Stay there until Sunday afternoon and then whatever happens, hopefully Sunday I can think about that but not right now.”

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Low-round alert: Jeongeun Lee6's 61 at Evian ties best round in major history

Jeongeun Lee6 enjoyed a historic day at the Amundi Evian Championship, birdieing her last four consecutive holes to shoot 10-under 61, tying (...)

Low-round alert: Jeongeun Lee6's 61 at Evian ties best round in major history

Jeongeun Lee6 enjoyed a historic day at the Amundi Evian Championship, birdieing her last four consecutive holes to shoot 10-under 61, tying the lowest round in major championship history.

Hyo Joo Kim shot 61 in Round 1 of the 2014 Evian.

Lee6’s 15-under 127 total opened up a seven-stroke lead midway through the second round and sets a new 36-hole record for LPGA majors, besting the 129 mark set by In Gee Chun at this championship in 2016.

The 2019 U.S. Women’s Open champ chipped in on the eighth hole and came to the reachable par-5 ninth hole (her 18th) with a chance to make eagle and shoot 60. But a leaked tee shot to the right, placed her in the rough, and she was forced to lay up. Lee6 then confidently drained a 15-foot putt for birdie right in the heart to take her place in history.

“I heard Hyo Joo Kim’s score,” said Lee6, “so last I missed fairway … I tried, third shot. Yeah, I made birdie. It’s amazing.”

Lee6 hit 10 fairways, 15 greens and took only 23 putts on her 10-birdie day. She said she planned to focus on her backswing and her targets the rest of the way. She had two consecutive top-10 finishes coming into this week.

David Buhai, whose wife Ashleigh plays on tour, has been caddying for Lee6 since the start of the year and felt she seemed hyper-focused during Friday’s round. Buhai said it was by far the best round he’d seen up close.

“Every putt looked like it was going to go in,” said Buhai. “It was incredible. Not one nerve. Speed was just perfect.

“I had the best seat in the house and I just kept my mouth shut.”

Japan’s Ayaka Furue shot 66-68 to get to the clubhouse at 8 under. Seven-time major winner Inbee Park carded a 64 that included a double-bogey on the first hole and holds a share of third with Thai phenom Atthaya Thitikul and American Lauren Stephenson, who both shot 69.

When Lee6 won the U.S. Women’s Open in Charleston, one of the first things she said through an interpreter at the winner’s press conference was that the next time she won a tournament she’d do the interview in English. Later that year, Lee6 delivered a beautiful and emotional speech at the Rolex Awards banquet when she earned Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year honors.

At the Evian on Friday, she was as clutch during a live Golf Channel interview with Jerry Foltz after the round as she’d been on the course. And, as Foltz pointed out, she was likely more nervous about that chat than the putt for 61.

“From a personal point of view,” said Buhai, “I mean, 6’s English from the first day I met her to now is incredible. She actually I think gets my jokes now, understands them, which helps.”

Lee6 confirmed that she and Buhai have the same sense of humor and that she continues to take English lessons from a Canadian tutor once a week.

Although LPGA players are still unable to dine out on tour, Lee said she still plans to celebrate the occasion with take-out: “I need delicious food.”


Source : Golf Week More   

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