Darren Clarke posted four birdies in his final six holes to take a one-stroke lead into the third round of the Senior Open at Sunningdale.
The Northern Irishman added a three-under par round of 67 to his opening 65 to reach eight-under par, one stroke clear of defending champion Bernhard Langer and American Jerry Kelly.
The 2011 Champion Golfer of the Year started well with birdies at the first and the third, but three bogeys in a row from the sixth threatened to derail his round. However, he bounced back with five birdies and only a single dropped shot in his final 10 holes to ensure he would be the man to catch after 36 holes.
Clarke’s playing partner Ernie Els shares fourth place with two-time Senior Major Champion Paul Broadhurst on six-under par, with the Englishman’s 65 the joint-lowest round of the day.
Four players share sixth place on four-under par including 1991 Masters Champion Ian Woosnam, 2018 Senior Open winner Miguel Angel Jimenez, Sweden’s Jarmo Sandelin and Japan’s Yoshinobu Tsukada.
The cut fell at five-over par, with 79 players surviving to compete over the weekend in Berkshire.
“I got a couple of birdies on the first three holes and made some poor swings, ahead of the last few holes, I was just hanging in there. I made good swings all the way coming in and kept giving myself opportunities,” said Clarke. “ I’m pleased that I finished on eight-under because the wind was swirling about a little bit.
“It would be huge to win. But we’re all long enough in the tooth to know this is only two rounds and there is a lot of golf to be played yet. I would love to have this trophy sitting beside the Claret Jug.”
Langer added: “I hit a couple of loose shots. I really haven’t made a whole lot of putts. I’m struggling with my putter. I had three three-putts in two rounds which is too much on these greens. But overall, it’s fairly solid and I’m driving the ball fairly good, which keeps me in play to attack some holes.”