Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke bounced back from a string of three consecutive bogeys Friday to card a 3-under 67 and take the 36-hole lead of the Senior Open Championship at Sunningdale, England.
Of Clarke's seven birdies on the day, he converted four over his final six holes in order to makeit to 8 under and grab a one-shot advantage over Jerry Kelly and Germany's Bernhard Langer.
With a 65 on Thursday, Clarke also had a share of the lead after the first round at Sunningdale Golf Club. Ten years removed from winning the Open Championship, his only major title, Clarke is aiming to become the fourth player in history to win both the Open and the Senior Open following Gary Player, Bob Charles and Tom Watson.
"It would be huge" to accomplish that feat, Clarke said Friday. "But you know, we're all long enough in the tooth to know this is only two rounds and a lot of golf to be played yet. I would love to have this trophy sitting behind the Claret Jug.
"Got to go work on some iron play. My iron play wasn't there, especially around the front nine today, but other than that drove the ball well. Really (would like to be) in the mix come Sunday afternoon and would love to improve."
Langer (67) and Kelly (66) each had an eagle the par-5 first hole to get their days started on a positive note. Langer is looking to add to his record 11 senior major titles, while Kelly won his first in 2020.
Langer briefly tied the lead at 8 under with a long birdie putt at No. 13 from just off the green, but he gave the shot back with a bogey at No. 16.
"Just really made one long putt somewhere -- 13, I think it was. Otherwise I really haven't made a whole lot of putts," he said. "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."
Ernie Els of South Africa and Paul Broadhurst of England are two back in a tie for fourth at 6 under. Like Clarke, Els would earn the distinction of having won both the Open and the Senior Open if he prevails this weekend.
Els shot a 67 for a second straight day while Broadhurst carded the low round of the day, a 5-under 65 that included an eagle and four birdies.
Rainy conditions are forecasted for the third and fourth rounds.
"A shot at a time, the old cliche, no magic scenario or anything like that," Broadhurst said. "I know the weather is not supposed to be too good but hopefully we'll miss the rain showers and thunder and lightning, and the course will be softer again."
Clarke's first-round co-leader, James Kingston of South Africa, fell off the pace with a 4-over 74 that sank him to 1 under overall and a tie for 20th.
--Field Level Media