Darren Clarke knows what it takes to play links golf.
The Ulsterman also knows what it takes to win an Open Championship and for him to get even close Sunday, Royal Liverpool will need a bit of breeze.
Unfortunately the forecast is for light to moderate northwest winds. Sitting nine shots back of young Rory McIlroy it will be a tall order, but one that Clarke at 45, seems to relish.
“I’ve just got to go play,” Clarke said after a 5-under 67, his best round in the Open Championship since a 67 in the third round at St. Andrews in 2005. I think we’re going to have a little bit of wind forecast for tomorrow. I’ll just go and play and do my best and see what that is. I just want to keep on hitting the ball the way I am.”
At a reported weight of 180 pounds or 12.9 stone, Clarke is about 50 pounds lighter than he was a year ago.
The weight loss changed his swing and his game suffered. It would take seven months of slight adjustments to get used to the added clubhead speed and the need for stiffer shafts in the equipment before Clarke could get comfortable.
“I’m not as fat as I was,” Clarke joked. “So my timing, it took me a little bit of time to adjust to that. The ball striking has been pretty good. I just need to knock in a few putts and get some momentum going. It feels like I’ve started to do that.”
After consecutive 72s in the first two rounds, Clarke would retreat to the practice putting green at the back side of the Royal Liverpool clubhouse and spend at least an hour on his putting.
That routine didn’t change after Saturday’s third round as Clarke continues to hone in on the one issue that still has held him back.
“I’m definitely starting to putt a lot nicer again, Clarke said. “So that’s always good. It’s difficult to hit good shots to the green. When you hit it to 6 feet, 7 feet and keep missing them, that’s particularly frustrating. But I managed to make a few this week, which is good.”