Stunning 65 gives Clarke share of lead in Hawaii

Ronan MacNamara

Darren Clarke (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Darren Clarke was in sensational form as he soared to the top of the leaderboard in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in a flying start to the PGA Tour Champions season.

The Senior Open champion shot a flawless 65 to share the lead with Kevin Sutherland as he hunts his second title in this event having won in 2021.

Clarke eased to the turn with birdies on the second, sixth and ninth before he landed a killer blow with an eagle on the par-5 10th. Birdies followed on 13 and 15 to climb alongside Sutherland on seven-under.

The 54-year-old is seeking his fifth win on the senior circuit in what is his 83rd start. The Dungannon man was very active on social media showing off his hard work on the driving range and in the gym in order to cover the ball more at impact with his irons after a frustrating 2022 by his standards.

“You know, I hit four or five shots that I really didn’t like as well, early season, but I worked really hard in the offseason,” said the 2011 Open champion. “Disappointed with a few of them, but overall, 7 under par, I’m delighted to start my year off with that.

“Just trying to rotate a lot more and get through the golf ball a little bit better. I had a little bit too much curve on it right to left a few times. Going to go to the range now and try and figure that out and hopefully be a little bit better tomorrow.”

Returning to a happy hunting ground often brings out the best in players and that proved the case for Clarke who feels at home in Hualalai.

“Oh, most definitely. Anytime you shoot 7 under at any golf course you’re pleased, but obviously first tournament of the year you want to get off to a good start and I managed to have a good round today. There’s always that one you’re looking forward to getting going again and it’s nice to shoot a good score today. Obviously I like the golf course, I won here a couple years ago. Hopefully go out and have a couple of better rounds the next two days.”

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