10:25 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (6:25 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time)
At 42, life is good for Darren Clarke. He’s soon to marry a beauty queen, he enjoys enormous popularity with the public and his fellow players, and – though he might say it’s OK either way – being Champion Golfer of the Year doesn’t hurt much at all.
After a dramatic eagle on No. 7 seized momentum back from Phil Mickelson, Clarke made pars and let first Mickelson, then Dustin Johnson, self-destruct in the pursuit. A bogey on 17 did nothing to tarnish the day or dent the revered Claret Jug, which will have Clarke’s name on it in his 20th try at the championship.
Mickelson couldn’t hit a putt today, and he can look back at a half dozen good looks through the tournament that stayed outside the hole. Johnson was moving up, keeping the heat on Clarke, when he pushed his second shot out of bounds on the par-5 14th. Game over.
Mickelson hit one into the seats on 18, not the five-run home run he was looking for. Earlier, he made it a tournament for a cluster of holes. Clarke, unfazed then, was steady to the end.
His world has been rocked by tragedy, and his two sons helped him through it. Today, for Darren Clarke, life is beautiful.
8 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (4 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time)
All through the tournament, Phil Mickelson has hung around, hung around and hung around, right there near level par. He’s charging now, playing five under through his first seven holes. An eagle on No. 7 brought him into a tie for the lead. It was brief.
Leader Darren Clarke, playing two groups behind Mickelson, had a defiant answer on that same No. 7, dropping his own eagle to reclaim the lead by two strokes.
Great golf, ripping TV.
In a season where his game has wandered, Mickelson came into the Open Championship as a mystery. This tournament has been his least productive of the majors through the years, with just one Top 10. He had 30 on the front this morning, and if nothing else, it’s a lot more fun with Mickelson in the mix and playing well.
Clarke is having fun. Dustin Johnson has been nondescript so far, but he could surge at any time.
What is not winning, so far, is the wind, blow as it might. The game is on.