Clarke kicks into gear with opening 68 at Charles Schwab Cup

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Darren Clarke (Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

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Darren Clarke is three shots off the lead after the opening round of the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship after a three-under 68 at Phoenix Country Club.

The former Open champion fired four birdies and a bogey to sit tied-15th after the first round, three back of Kirk Triplett, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk in Arizona.

Clarke cannot win the Charles Schwab Cup as he is too far behind leader Bernhard Langer in the points list, however he is still looking for a momentum-boosting victory to take into next season.

His first round started well with a birdie at his opening hole and he added two more at the eighth and ninth, however his only bogey of the round came at the 11th.

But the former European Ryder Cup captain will take plenty of confidence going into Friday’s second round after he finished strongly with a birdie on his closing hole as he goes in search of his fourth win of this two-year wraparound season.

At the top, Furyk will be the happiest of the three leaders at six-under as he is currently projected to finish top of the Charles Schwab Cup if he could win the title in Arizona.

With current leader Langer alongside Clarke in 15th, the American would overtake him at the top if he could go on to win the season-ending tournament after opening with seven birdies and one bogey in an impressive 65.

“Good solid round. Not a lot of mistakes today,” said Furyk.

“Hit a couple bad putts on the back nine at 12 and that bothered me a little bit. A couple bad drives at 17 and 18, but overall I hit the ball extremely well today. Hit a lot of great iron shots, a lot of birdie putts inside of six feet, was able to convert on those and was able to put myself in a good position after day one.

“A little longer event for us this week in that it’s a four-round event instead of a three, so just kind of be patient all week and get ready to go for four rounds.”

Furyk is joined at the summit by Mickelson, who also had seven birdies and a bogey in his 65, while Triplett was the only one of the trio who was flawless in his opening round.

Their lead is just one over five players at five-under, including the in-form Steven Alker, with the top-10 rounded out by six players at four-under, including Jerry Kelly who is fifth in the Charles Schwab standings.

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