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Darren Clarke takes halfway lead at The Senior Open

The tee kicks up near Darren Clarke's face as he tees off on the last day of the Sanford International golf tournament on Sunday, September 19, 2021, at the Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls.Sanford International Finals 005
Credit: Erin Bormett / Argus Leader via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke fired a 3-under-par 67 on Friday to take a two-stroke lead at the midway point of The Senior Open Championship at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland.

Clarke, 53, is at 8-under-par 132 after two rounds, tying his lowest 36-hole score at any PGA Tour Champions major. This is the fifth time he has led or co-led after 36 holes on tour, which he converted into wins just twice.

Two shots back is Scott Parel, who followed his opening-round 66 with a 68. At 5-under par 135 is a group of eight players waiting to make their move on Saturday, including Germany’s Bernhard Langer (68 Friday), Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (69) and South Africa’s Ernie Els (69).

Clarke rebounded from a front nine consisting of two bogeys and one birdie by making four birdies on the back nine.

“Around the front nine today, I was so-so,” Clarke said. “I slipped. My right foot slipped a couple of times. But apart from that, I played really nicely. I’m trying to hit a lot of fairways and give myself decent looks. All the way around the back nine, I kept hitting nice shots. And could have been a few better.”

The co-leaders after Round 1, Glen Day and Stephen Ames of Canada, stumbled to over-par rounds on Friday. Ames shot a 71 to move into the pack tied for third at 5 under.

Day’s 72 put him in a cluster of five players at 4-under 136 — a group that includes local favorite Colin Montgomerie of Scotland (66) and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez (67).

Rain and temperatures in the mid-60s are in the forecast for the weekend, but Clarke said that won’t faze him.

“I grew up in it. It should be all right,” he said. “But you know, I think Gleneagles does such a wonderful job with the golf course getting it ready, it would be a shame to get that much rain but a little bit of rain and wind doesn’t hurt anybody. You have to control the flight of your golf ball, especially around here on some of those tighter tee shots.

“You’ve got to shape it a little bit and try and control your trajectory a little bit, so hopefully we’ll be able to do that over the weekend.”

Parel, 57, said the wind impacted his play on Friday but he had no complaints about his standing heading into the weekend. He had seven birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey 6 on No. 12.

“I putted quite well. Didn’t hit the ball maybe quite as good as yesterday but the conditions are a lot tougher, so very happy with 68,” Parel said.

“(There was) a little bit more wind and the tough holes are into the wind. No. 12 was a bear today. I hit every shot like I wanted and made a double bogey. But that’s what you’re going to get here.”

Clarke has one major win to his credit — The Open Championship in 2011 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club.

–Field Level Media