Clarke six back as defending champ Stricker leads in Alabama

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Darren Clarke in Alabama. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

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Darren Clarke will need to produce his Sunday best if he’s to claim his first Major crown since his 2011 Open Championship success.

Despite carding his third under par round of the week with a one-under 71, the 52-year old finds himself six shots back of Steve Stricker’s lead after the US Ryder Cup Captain eagled the last in a seven-under round of 65 to head the field at the Regions Tradition, the first of five PGA Tour Champions majors.

Stricker moved a stroke ahead of Alex Cejka with the eagle that got him to 14-under at Greystone Golf & Country Club with Germany’s Cejka continuing to excel as first alternate with a 66 on moving day. Clarke is in a tie for sixth at eight-under par.

Stricker, who won the Alabama major the last time it was held in 2019, raised his fist toward the fans as his eagle landed at the last:

“I hit a good drive,” Stricker said. “And I had a number that I really had to hit a good hard utility club. I had to really turn it over. And it just worked out really nicely. Had a nice look at it. Made a good putt.”

“Winning here a couple years has given me confidence that I can play well around here,” Stricker added. “We had a great day to play. And there’s a lot of good players up around the top.

“I’m going to have to go out, take care of business tomorrow, and put up another good round like I did today. And Alex played great. It was fun to watch him.”

Cejka is in contention again after tying for second in the Chubb Classic as a Monday qualifier.

“Steve made a lot of putts, especially down the stretch,” he said. “The eagle was incredible. I mean, two great shots to the green and holed the putt.

“I three-putted the 17th hole and didn’t get up and down on 18. A little bit disappointing, but overall I played great. I had a lot of chances. I would like to play like this (Sunday), just give me a lot of chances, make a few putts and I’m super happy to be in that position going into the last day.”

Swede Robert Karlsson is in a tie for third at 11-under after firing eight birdies in a bogey-free 64.

“I hit one in the water on 11 and I managed to make a par from there, so it was great to keep the momentum going,” Karlsson said.

Two-time winner Bernhard Langer is not to be discounted either, six shots back alongside Clarke at eight-under par.

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