Darren Clarke birdied his last four holes on his way to a 62 that saw him burst into contention ahead of the final round of the Sanford International.
The former Champion Golfer of the Year’s form has been slowly returning in recent weeks but even he wasn’t expecting a nine birdie haul in his eight-under par effort given his play in an opening no-thrills 70 the day prior.
“What a day,” Clarke said. “I played so badly yesterday. I played so poorly, hit the ball awful yesterday, went back and watched a bit of YouTube and watched a bit of Instagram and found a little tip from somebody and came out and hit some balls this morning and thought, `Well, that felt pretty good.'”
Now just a shot adrift, Clarke trails Steve Stricker and Miguel Angel Jimenez who shared the lead going into the final round, with Fred Couples and Kevin Sutherland alongside Clarke in a tie for third.
The only player at at Minehaha Country Club set to play next week in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, Stricker birdied the par-5 16th and par-4 18th on Saturday for a 6-under 64 to post at 9-under 131.
“I like my spot and I’m going to have to go out tomorrow and put up another good round,” Stricker said. “That’s my focus anyway, to get out there and make birdies and try not to make any mistakes.”
The U.S. Ryder Cup captain won the inaugural event in 2018, then skipped his title defense last year.
“I feel like I’m the defending champion,” Stricker said. “I haven’t been here since two years ago, but I enjoy the layout. You’ve got to put it in the proper spot. If you don’t hit it in the fairway, sometimes hitting it on these small undulating greens is tough, as you saw a couple short holes for me today that you end up scrambling.”
Jimenez, the Spanish star tied for the lead with David Toms and Dicky Pride after the rainy first round, birdied the par-4 15th as well as 16 and 18 in a 66.
John Daly, two days after revealing he’s being treated for bladder cancer, was 6 under after a 66.
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