Darren Clarke will head into final round of the British Open as the outright leader after shooting a 69 to move to 5 under for the tournament.
The 42 year old, playing the 54th major of his career, battled the elements as well as the inevitable pressure that comes at leading at a major tournament as he hit three birdies and two bogeys to go round in one under.
Clarke is one ahead of American Dustin Johnson and three ahead of Rickie Fowler going in to final round, with all three the only player’s to break par on a tough day on the course. Thomas Bjorn, the first round leader is also in contention, level on 2 under alongside Fowler.
Both Clarke and Johnson have demons to exorcise, the Northern Ireland man losing out to a superb round by Justin Leonard in 1997 while Johnson led the US Open last year by three only to shoot an 82 and allow Graeme McDowell claim the crown.
Speaking about his round and his ovation at the 18th, the likeable Clarke said “From tee to green I can’t really play any better. I had one of those days where I had full control of my ball flight, but I didn’t have the speed with my putting at all.
“If somebody had said before the start I could have 69, though, I would have bitten their hand off.”
“I think most of the crowd identify with a guy who’s not quite an athlete and likes a pint.
“I have a chance to realise a dream now and that would be fantastic.
“I’ve done just about everything else. I’ve been fortunate to win Ryder Cups and World Championships, but a Major has so far eluded me.
Meanwhile Rory McIlroy is four over after a round of 74 and sits in a tie for 25th place, his bid to become the youngest Open winner seemingly falling by the wayside.
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