Mixed fortunes for Clarke on opening day at Mitsubishi Electric Classic

Mark McGowan

Darren Clarke (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Darren Clarke fired five birdies in his opening round as the Champions Tour visited TPC Sugarloaf in Georgia, but unfortunately for the reigning Senior Open champion, he’d card three bogeys and a double enroute to a first round level-par 72.

Birdies at the par-4 13th and 14th holes were sandwiched by bogeys at the 12th and 15th as Clarke, starting on the back nine, found consistency an issue throughout. He’d drop another stroke at the par-5 18th after finding the hazard with his second shot and he’d make the turn at +1 for the day.

Another birdie at the par-5 third brought him back to level for the day, then back-to-back birdies on six and seven got him moving in the right direction again. Any momentum gained was quickly lost at the par-5 eighth hole as a wild drive would again incur a penalty and a resulting double-bogey as he’d play the four par-5s in one over, signing off with a par at the last to lie tied for 42nd at level par.

Stephen Ames and David Toms are the first round leaders at -7, one stroke clear of a chasing quartet that includes the Tiger slaying YE Yang, with Miguel Angel Jiménez alongside Bernhard Langer at -5.

Langer is still in search of a record-setting 46th Champions Tour success and he’s given himself every chance of sealing the deal this week with a solid opening effort, though Davis Love III, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh are among those at -4, ensuring a strong leaderboard going into the weekend.

Toms hit all 18 greens in regulation as he’d go bogey-free for his 65, not that the 2001 PGA Championship winner noticed.

“When you’re playing well, you don’t pay attention to all those things,” he explained afterwards, “you just add them up at the end, or you try to. Try not to add them up before you get finished.”

Ames may not have hit all 18 greens, but he also went bogey free in a family affair as he has his son on the bag this week.

“In some respects it’s me showcasing,” he replied when asked if it helps bring out the best in the Canadian, “me showcasing me, what his dad’s capable of doing in some respects. I think at this stage now for him with his career where he’s going, he’s realizing the kind of work that he needs to do. So we’ve had a lot of chit chats going on out there, which is always important to be in a comfortable position, comfortable zone should we say”


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