Darren Clarke wants in on the fun.
Clarke, who has made 16 of 20 cuts in the Open and finished a career-best second at Royal Troon in 1997, has posted a pair of 2-under 68s and stands at 4-under 136 heading into the weekend at Royal St. George's. Clarke has previously finished tied for 39th (1993) and 59th (2003) at this venue.
"It would mean an awful lot," said Clarke in reference to winning, "but obviously this is only after two rounds. There's an awful long way to go yet, and I believe the forecast for the weekend is very, very poor, which I quite look forward to. But the course is going to play very, very tough. If that's the case, then the tournament is still wide open for an awful lot of players, and will be."
There was a time when Clarke, a winner of 13 European Tour titles, including a pair of World Golf Championships, was considered one of the world's finest. In 2006, though, his personal world turned tumultuous with the death of his wife, Heather, to cancer.
Less than a month after her passing, an emotional Clarke helped Europe win the Ryder Cup at the K Club near Dublin. His game would eventually unravel and he endured a three-year winless drought that was finally broken in May.
Now he's back in contention.
"I've changed things about a little bit," said Clarke, who has two sons. "I moved back home to Northern Ireland again to Portrush with my kids, their education. It's a lot easier to play better whenever family life and stuff at home much better, much more stable again."
Since his win at the European Tour's Iberdrola Open, Clarke has not cracked the top 40 in any of his five starts. That, though, is not deterring Clarke.
"I think if you ask any professional whenever they're not playing as well as they think they should be, we all get annoyed and frustrated," he said of poor play. "But I've been around long enough obviously. I've been around the mill for a while. So it never really disappears. Just trying to get it back out again. So far this week I've played quite nicely."
But the main question is whether he believes he can keep this form for a couple of more rounds, especially with inclement weather in the forecast.
"Of course I do," he said.
What a sweet win it would be.
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.
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