Darren Clarke’s first title defence on the PGA Tour Champions has not gone to plan with the former Open champion one place off the bottom of the leaderboard after the opening two rounds of the TimberTech Championship in Boca Raton, Florida.
The 53-year-old, who won this tournament last year, struggled to rounds of 79 and 74 on Saturday – the first and second rounds were played back-to-back after poor weather on Friday – to sit 46th at nine-over-par.
At a whopping 23 shots off the lead, which is held by Tim Petrovic and Jim Furyk who lead by one from Steven Alker at 14-under after contrasting rounds at the Old Course at Broken Sound, it would need the comeback of all comebacks just to have Clarke within touching distance at the top let alone genuinely contending.
While Furyk was relatively consistent with rounds of 66 and 64, Petrovic used his first round 69 to feel out the course before heading back out in the afternoon and carding a phenomenal 11-under 61 to hold a share of the lead.
Clarke unfortunately could only dream of such a round as he could only record three birdies across his two rounds which leaves him simply trying to restore some pride in Sunday’s final round.
He had actually been under-par early after a birdie on the second hole of his first round, the 11th, but a double-bogey at 12th took him over-par and then three more bogeys and a birdie had him slipping further down the standings.
The killer came at the par-three eighth, which yielded a quadruple-bogey seven for the former European Ryder Cup champion, and a second round that included three bogeys and only one birdie will have done little to improve his mood.
Clarke is already out of the running for the Charles Schwab Cup but will hope to at least finish strongly to give him the best chance possible to improve his ranking at next week’s season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship and take some momentum into next season.
One player who is still in the order of merit running is co-leader Furyk, who is doing everything he can to take the race into the final event by picking up a win in Boca Raton.
The former US Open champion has only bogeyed two of his opening 36 holes – amazingly, both came in his first five of his first round – to sit alongside Petrovic at the top of the leaderboard at 14-under knowing a win would take him right in behind Charles Schwab Cup leader Bernhard Langer.
The German currently holds a comfortable lead in the order of merit but is tied-15th at Broken Sound, so if Furyk could pull himself ahead and win the event then it would make things very interesting heading into the final week.
“Nothing really changes,” he said of his approach. “(Langer) was leading the Schwab Cup and then wins the first (playoff) event, so that makes it real clear to the rest of us what we have to do, right? We have to win at least one of the last two and probably have to beat Bernhard in the other one, right? I think the money’s probably weighted a little heavier in the finale.
“I always want to come in and play well and try to jockey for position the first couple days and try to give myself a chance to win on Sunday. It was very clear what had to be done. I mean, I knew I had to win one of these last two, for sure.
“But if you think about that, if you go into tournaments thinking I have to win or you start trying to play to win an event, I find I get impatient, I hit shots I shouldn’t try to hit.
“Maybe the 36 (holes) was good for me from a mental standpoint because I just knew today was going to feel like a marathon, and I tried to pace myself all day. In my mind I was really just trying to I guess not make some mental errors. That’s kind of what I do on 36 holes.
“I really tried to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and hitting good, smart shots. I did make a mental error off the 17th tee, but was lucky to get away with it. I think 36 holes and the way I approached today probably might have kept me grounded instead of thinking about trying to win golf tournaments.”
Petrovic’s incredible 61 featured 11 birdies and seven pars at Broken Sound which rocketed him up the leaderboard in the afternoon after an average first round, with Alker adding rounds of 68 and 63 to put himself right in the mix too.
Ernie Els lies fourth after rounds of 67 and 66 left him 11-under, three off the pace, and it’s a little bit of a drop down to Kirk Triplett, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Scott Dunlap, who round out the top-five at nine-under.
- Full scoring HERE
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