For Dustin Johnson and Darren Clarke the long wait before their final rounds in the 140th Open Championship is over. They have stepped on to the first tee and exchanged scorecards. Neither has won a major championship, but both have come close, Clarke finishing second at Royal Troon in 1997 and third in 2001 at Lytham, and Johnson playing in the final group in both the US Open and USPGA.
Under darkening skies the wind is scouring the links from the south-west, but plenty of players out ahead of them are finding birdies easy to come by. There have been 18 at the second hole, 10 at the fifth and 24 at the seventh. All these holes are playing downwind. It’s a very different story at the fourth where the tee shot to a raised fairway is straight into the breeze. Only Sergio Garcia, thanks to a monster putt from the lower level of the green, has beaten par here today. He reached four under par for his round and level for the Championship after seven holes, but a soul destroying six at the eighth has taken the momentum out of his round.
American Spencer Levin is the only man to have finished under par so far with a fine 69, but his 81 in the bad weather yesterday keeps him well down the leaderboard. Garcia is two under for today and so is Frederik Jacobson. Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim both dipped below par on the second.
There are birdies to be had, but danger also lurks in every corner of the course. The scene is set for a tremendous climax to the game’s oldest Championship.