Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke displayed all the talents that make him one of the most gifted golfers on the planet to produce a marvellous second round of six under par 65 and move into a three stroke lead at the Barclays Scottish Open at the mouth-watering Loch Lomond Golf Club.
The Ulsterman has few, if any, peers when it comes to the striking of the golf ball, and all of his class was on display as he conjured seven birdies and just single dropped shot on a day of perfect conditions at Loch Lomond.
Sweden’s Johan Edfors, Ireland’s Damien McGrane and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel lead the chasing pack behind Clarke on eight under par, with Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Scotland’s David Drysdale on seven under.
Playing alongside Colin Montgomerie and José Maria Olazábal, Clarke made a steady start but was in Montgomerie’s shadow for their opening three holes as the Scottish fans’ favourite flew out of the blocks with a run of birdie-birdie-eagle in his first three holes.
As Montgomerie slowed down, Clarke eased his way through the gears to find his optimum level of performance, picking up shots on the third, sixth and ninth holes to get to the turn in three under.
Another birdie on the tenth was cancelled out by his only dropped shot of the day on the 11th, but Clarke was not to be denied the outright lead as he accelerated past Edfors, McGrane and Schwartzel at the head of the leaderboard with three birdies in his final five holes.
“I hit it really nicely today and gave myself an awful lot of chances,” said Clarke, who is sponsored by tournament sponsors Barclays.
“I missed a few unfortunately but, overall, six under is pretty good. I have been working on a few things with Ewen Murray and trying to hit the ball as hard as I can. If the club is in the right position then I can do that and I am feeling quite comfortable with what I am doing.
“I played nice, really nice, and hit the ball well. I have been in contention here a few times before and it’s good to be up there again for the weekend.”
If Clarke can maintain his level of performance and secure victory this weekend, every person involved in golf, be they fellow players, officials, sponsors, journalists, and fans, would be thrilled for the 38 year old and his family.
It is no secret that Clarke’s wife Heather is suffering from cancer, and his astonishing efforts on the golf course, given the circumstances he is playing under, are being marvelled by everyone associated with the game.
Montgomerie summed up the feeling of all in the sport, commenting: “Darren played very well and if he plays anything like that over the weekend then he should be okay. I’d be delighted to see him win. His troubles are well broadcast and I wish him well.
“He can win this now. He is playing as well as I have seen anyone in Europe this year and if anyone deserves a win at his own tournament – Barclays sponsor him – it would be fantastic if he could win this.
“I know Darren well – he’s a good friend. We played in The Ryder Cup together in 1997. We played in his first game together which was nine years ago so I do wish him well.
“His was a fantastic performance today – and yesterday, but especially when he got into the lead. I know what it’s like. All sorts of issues flood into the mind when you are leading but he went forward from there and that is very positive. Now he’s three ahead and we all wish him well.”