Clarke finding his feet after starting behind the 8-ball at PGA

Darren Clarke (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

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Darren Clarke admitted he was left frustrated by his start on Thursday but was pleased to turn his week around with a two-under 68 on day two of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.

Twice a winner on the Champions Tour circuit already, Clarke opened his PGA bid with a four-putt quadruple-bogey at the first hole on Thursday in an eventual opening five-over 75 but bounced back on Friday to ensure safe passage into the weekend with a 68 that included four birdies in a row from the 14th as the Dungannon favourite jumped 60-odd places up the leaderboard and inside the top-25 at three-over par.

“I’ve been playing nicely for most of the year, I won a couple of times recently,” Clarke said. “I’ve been playing nicely and I just got really frustrated with myself just wasting shots and giving myself opportunities — my putter was really cold all day.

“The ones I made birdie, I holed it from the front bunker on number 13. It was me to you away from the flag, but nice I holed it. Then I hit an 8-iron on the next to four feet. Holed it. Then hit a driver, 7-iron on 16 to three feet and holed it. And then I hit it in the bunker on 17 out to about six feet and holed it. So it wasn’t as if I was making 20-footers for fun. So I got a little bit of work to go on do.”

As for the quadruple bogey ‘8’ that opened his PGA account on Thursday, Clarke certainly wasn’t about to shirk talking about it.

“I haven’t had a snowman for I don’t know, what? I haven’t had a four-putt, should I say, for a very long time,” Clarke said of a start that left him well behind the 8-ball.

“It was one of those, I was, I just got it out, it was a comedy of errors. But I just completely misjudged the speed of the green. It was way faster uphill than what any putt that I’ve been hitting downhill was out here before I went out and I hit it four foot past and hit it four foot past and then I was sort of I’ll finish, I’ll finish, I’ll mark. But I was the worst in the field with the putter and I struggled all the rest of the way around.

“Then I hit a nice drive on No. 9 to finish off the round and left myself I think what was it 67 flag or something to the 9th this morning. Hit a nice lob in there and made birdie. Got it back a little bit. But then it’s tough, it’s a major, it’s supposed to be tough, but it’s tricky, it’s really, really tricky out there. To get the wind — and here if you get the wind wrong, there’s a couple of places where you can’t afford to hit it and unfortunately I did that.”

There were no such issues for Mike Weir who opened a four-stroke lead Friday with a five-under 65 on a tough Southern Hills layout that baffled most of the players. That moved the Canadian to seven-under through 36 holes, with Steve Stricker (68), Rocco Mediate (69) and John Riegger at 3 under. Riegger had three holes left when play was called because of darkness at 8:31 p.m. Weir completed his round just minutes earlier.

Weir won the Insperity Invitational in Houston early this month for his first PGA TOUR Champions victory. The left-hander made six birdies against one bogey. His longest birdie putt was only 10 feet and he made difficult par saves on holes Nos. 7, 8 and 9 — his closing holes — to remain separated from the field.

“It was a really fun round of golf,” Weir said. “It’s a very demanding golf course, so when you have your opportunities and take advantage of them you feel good because you know you’re going to be fighting for some pars on some holes, which I was coming in and made a couple nice par putts to finish off the round nicely.

“But all aspects of my game were a little bit sharper today. I drove it a little better than yesterday and the putting was still solid. I hit some iron shots a little closer to the hole today than yesterday and that’s why I got to 5 under.”

Paul McGinley carded a one-under 69 that left him just inside the projected cut-mark at seven-over par though he’ll face an anxious wait with a number of players yet to complete their second rounds.

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