Darren Clarke took himself to just outside the top-10 at the midway point of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship after a strong second round at Phoenix Country Club.
The Ulsterman had six birdies and two bogeys on Friday in a four-under 67 that moves him up to seven-under, good for a share of 11th but six shots behind leader Kirk Triplett.
The three-time PGA Tour winner is bogey-free at the halfway stage of the PGA Tour Champions season-ending event after adding a seven-under 64 to his opening 65 to sit 13-under, two clear of the in-form Steven Alker.
Clarke will be somewhat frustrated with his round as he closed with a bogey, dropping him outside the top-10, but it was still an improved round on day two as he put himself within striking distance in Arizona.
The 53-year-old began with a birdie on his opening hole and then undid a birdie at the seventh with a bogey at the eighth, turning in one-under for the day.
The majority of his scoring was done on the back nine, the former Open champion rattling off four birdies in six holes, starting at the 12th, but even though that was a fine run, a bogey six at the finishing par-five will sting.
Leader Triplett, meanwhile, is the man to catch and he showed no signs of taking a step back towards the chasing pack as he stretched his bogey-free streak to 36 holes after a flawless 64 on day two.
The 59-year-old had four birdies in his opening six holes and then added three more in four holes on the back nine – from the 11th to 14th – to keep second-placed Alker at arm’s length after the New Zealander added a 65 to his opening 66.
“I’ve had the juices flowing for the last six weeks just trying to get to this tournament. I’ve been the guy on the bubble, No.36, for at least a month. I’ve been playing like I’m winning every single week, like every shot matters. I think that probably has something to do with my good play these last two days,” said Triplett.
“Both days I got off to a fast start and really was in a good position to shoot a good score by the time I made the turn both days. No big mistakes, didn’t really have to fight for too many pars and kind of kept the ball on the proper side all day.
“Maybe got a little not quite as aggressive the last few holes, got out of position a couple times, but we know where you’ve got to finish, and nobody’s at that score yet.”
There is also the sub-plot brewing of who will win the overall Charles Schwab Cup and it looks like Jim Furyk, who is tied for third at 10-under, is in the driving seat as he is projected to leapfrog leader Bernhard Langer and claim the order of merit crown.
Furyk has carded rounds of 65 and 67 to keep himself up at the top of the leaderboard, while Langer, who is battling back problems but has still teed it up this week to try and win the title, is down in 31st after a one-over 72 dropped him down to two-under.
“The weather’s supposed to be perfect, I like the golf course, fans are excited. Yeah, absolutely, I’m excited about the weekend and trying to win a golf tournament and then trying to put myself in position for the Schwab Cup,” said Furyk.
“I’m just going to focus on trying to play well and one hole, one shot, try to add them up to good scores at the end and focus more on trying to play good rounds of golf. You do that, the rest kind of takes care of itself.”
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