Clarke and McDowell move into the top 10

Northern Irish golfers upwardly mobile on moving day at British Open

 Darren Clarke taks shelter from the rain at the start of his round on day three of the British Open. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire.

Darren Clarke taks shelter from the rain at the start of his round on day three of the British Open. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire.

Sat, Jul 19, 2014, 15:37

Three years on from his greatest ever title win in his favourite championship, the slimmed-down version of Darren Clarke reintroduced himself to the British Open on Saturday with a third round 67 for 211, five-under-par, that moved him into the top-10.

The 45-year-old Northern Irishman has come through a fitness regime aimed at losing weight and toning up which he estimates took eight months of adjustment to rediscover his swing.

“If you’ve got 50 pounds or 60 pounds sitting in front of your gut, you’re going to swing it slower through the ball. I kept leaving the club behind me. I’ve done a few things this week and the club’s got back in front of me again, so it’s even better,” said Clarke, one of those to start on the 10th tee in the revised draw which was part of the contingency plan drawn up by the R&A due to forecast thunderstorms.

“They’ve had to do what they had to do to try and get it done today, and they’re trying to do what’s best for the tournament. So there can be no blame apportioned at all to the R&A for that,” said Clarke.

As it happened, the seaside course dodged the thunderstorms and players had only to contend with occasional rain in flat calm conditions. Clarke’s 67 moved him up the leaderboard and he was joined on the 211 mark by Graeme McDowell, who shot a third round 68 which included five birdies on his back nine.

“It has given me a good shot at something (in the final round) . . . a solid top-10, top-5 with a good score, that’s all I can hope for form here. Just another low number, post a good number and take some good confidence away,” said McDowell.

Shane Lowry got off to a flying start in his round with four birdies in his opening six holes and reached the turn in 32, only to hit a wall. He missed a short putt for birdie on the 10th and then missed another short one on the 11th to suffer a bogey. Another bogey followed on the 12th and, having worked his way up to tied-seventh at one point, he fell back and ultimately signed for a 70 for 213, three-under.

“I’d just love to go back and stand on that 10th tee again. Or stand over the three-footer to go five under for the day on the 10th green. I’d love to do it all over again but unfortunately I can’t. I’ll try and clear my head and get ready for (the final round),” said Lowry.

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