Strong start for Clarke at Hoag Classic

Adam McKendry
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Darren Clarke (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

Darren Clarke is off to a bright start at the Hoag Classic in California as he carded a five-under 66 to sit two off the lead after his opening round at the PGA Tour Champions event.

The former Open champion was bogey-free on day one, carding three birdies and an eagle in his best round since the opening round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship back in January.

It’s been a tough start to the season for Clarke, who hasn’t finished inside the top-10 on the PGA Tour Champions since his win at the Sanford International back in September, but he has put himself in a good early position in a share of fourth at Newport Beach Country Club.

He was quickly under-par with a birdie at his opening hole and, although that was followed by eight straight pars, two more birdies fell at the 10th and 12th before he rounded off his scoring at the par-five 15th with an eagle.

At five-under, the 53-year-old is only a couple adrift of leader Cameron Beckman, who opened with a 65 and leads by one stroke from Seniors Open champion Stephen Dodd and Bernhard Langer.

Beckman started and finished his round superbly, opening with three straight birdies before adding two more at the seventh and ninth, and after cancelling a bogey at 13 with a birdie at 15, an eagle on the closing par-five 18th moved him into the solo lead.

“I got off to such a good start, birdied the first three. This golf course, you’ve got to be so patient on it, so I was able to kind of just be super patient and I made a couple of nice long putts, and eagle on the last hole was great,” said Beckman.

Langer was tied at the top after seven birdies in his first 15 holes, but a bogey at the 16th dropped him back into a share of second with Dodd, who mixed an eagle and five birdies with a bogey in his opening round at Newport Beach.

At five-under, Clarke is joined by Jeff Maggert and Ernie Els – who was also bogey-free on day one – with the trio of Rocco Mediate, Scott Parel and David Toms rounding out the top-10 at four-under after they all signed for 68s.

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