Clarke enjoying title defence at Sanford International as he sits second after opening round

Adam McKendry

Darren Clarke (Photo by Phil Inglis/Getty Images)

Five birdies in his last seven holes allowed Darren Clarke to move into a strong position on the leaderboard at the Sanford International after the opening round in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The Senior Open champion carded a bogey-free seven-under 63 on the first day of his title defence at Minnehaha Country Club, which leaves him one shot behind leader Robert Karlsson.

Clarke looked on track for a mid-table finish after the first 11 holes of his round, picking up just two birdies, but sparked into life on his back nine as the only holes he failed to birdie on his way back to the clubhouse were the 13th and 17th.


Having already claimed victory at Gleneagles earlier this season, the Dungannon man is eyeing up more success as the season begins to reach its climax and he’s enjoying being back at a venue where he has had prior success.

“You get rewarded more again for keeping it on the fairway,” explained the 54-year-old, who beat K.J. Choi and Steve Flesch in a play-off to win this event in 2021.

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice to get off to a good start when you come back and defend a tournament, but a long way to go yet. With the quality of field, you know the guys are just going to keep going after it.”

Karlsson posted eight birdies in his 62, finishing with three straight to put himself one shot clear of Clarke and Kevin Sutherland, with five players – including Bernhard Langer, Ernie Els and last year’s runner-up Flesch – at six-under-par.

Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington continued his good form with a solid four-under 66 in his opening round, five birdies and a bogey leaving him just outside the top-10 after the opening day.


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