Clarke three back after Stricker steams in with magnificent 60

Ronan MacNamara

Darren Clarke (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Darren Clarke fell three shots off the pace heading into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hualalai despite shooting a 66 to move to thirteen-under.

Holding a share of the overnight lead, Clarke’s 66 was ambushed by a sensational twelve-under 60 from Steve Stricker who shot the second lowest round in Champions Tour history.

The Dungannon native is in solo third with German Alex Cejka in second place on -14 after a 64.

The Senior Open champion was left to rue a double-bogey on 16 which could prove costly with scoring so low thus far and it was his only blemish through 36 holes.

The 54-year-old made the turn. in 32 after four birdies in six holes and birdies on 10, 13 and 15 saw him keep pace with Stricker who was tearing the course apart.

A costly six on the par-4 16th dropped Clarke back into the pack but a closing birdie ensured he kept hold of the coattails of Stricker.

Stricker came so close to the magical 59, completing both nines in just 30 strokes.

The 2021 Ryder Cup captain birdied six of his first seven holes to soar into contention before a birdie on the tenth and a par on 11 gave way to four successive birdies.

The American needed to find two more gains in his last three holes but was only able to birdie the 18th to shoot a superb bogey-free 60 to lead on -16 with the course record.

“It was a special round. I got off to a good start. I was 4 under through five and getting through that fifth hole with a birdie is a key to the round for me and I did that. Strung together a few more birdies after that, too. Hit the ball solidly again today and I just, I hit it closer today than I did yesterday and gave myself some opportunities and made some nice putts.

“I drove it well yesterday, too. I had the ball in the middle of the fairway a lot yesterday and just didn’t really hit it that close, pretty tentative and pretty defensive.

“Today I was a little bit more aggressive going into the holes, had a better feel for what was going on. Then I made a little adjustment in my putting kind of before I left, started the round today that seemed to pay off. Yeah, it was a good round. Trying to get one more on the way in would have been cool, but all in all it was a good day.”

Stricker admitted the thought of shooting a sub 60 round crossed his mind while standing over a mid-range eagle putt on 14.

“I had about a 25-, 30-footer for eagle at 14. I think at that  point I was 9 under and I was thinking to myself if I could knock that in, get to 11, just get a couple more, it’s a real potential.

“So I didn’t do that, but then made a good one on the next. I knew I needed to birdie two out of the last three and gave myself a chance and hit a couple good putts. Yeah, anyways, it was a good day.”

Scoring HERE

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