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After missing the cut last week at the 149th British Open at Royal St. George’s, site of his 2011 British Open title, Darren Clarke, said, “All I ever wanted as a young kid was to get my name on the Claret Jug.”
But at 52 years of age, Clarke has set a new goal.
“The Senior British would be very special for me,” he said.
Clarke took a step in the right direction to becoming just the fourth player in history to win both the British Open and Senior British Open on Thursday. He fired a 5-under 65 at Sunningdale Golf Club (Old) in Berkshire, England, to share the lead after the first round with South African James Kingston.
Clarke has enjoyed a resurgence on the PGA Tour Champions this year, claiming two wins in the last eight months. He credited video lessons with swing coach Shauheen Nakhjavani for his strong play. Clarke has plenty of experience at the famed Sunningdale links designed by Willie Park Jr.
“Sunningdale is one of those golf courses where when you play it, you think you’re going to have lots of chances and you go out and play with a card in your hand, it’s a different golf course,” he said.
With a victory this week, Clarke, a 14-time European Tour winner, would join Gary Player, Bob Charles and Tom Watson as the only players to have won the Claret Jug and the Senior Open.
Germany’s Bernhard Langer, the defending champion having won his fourth title when the tournament was last played in 2019, opened with 4-under 66 and trails by one along with Stephen Dodd and Ricardo Gonzalez. Two-time British Open champ Ernie Els, who could also join select company with the rare double, is among a party of five at 3-under 67, including American Jerry Kelly and Australian Robert Allenby, who is making his senior circuit debut.