Darren Clarke and Dustin Johnson head into the final round of the 140th Open Championship hoping to exorcise ghosts of their golfing past.
The 42 year-old from Dungannon and his 27 year-old rival from Columbia, South Carolina, have both narrowly lost out on a first Major title at previous Championships but have high hopes of going one better against what is massed leaderboard featuring top golfers from all over the world.
Clarke carded a third round 69 and goes into the final round with a one shot lead over Johnson on five under par 205. The big-hitting American returned a fine two under par 68 in the wind and rain of the third day for a four under par total of 206 while Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn and America’s Rickie Fowler are a further two shots back on 208 after a 71 and a 68 respectively.
America’s Lucas Glover and popular Spaniard, Miguel Angel Jimenez, are tied in fifth place on 209 while a cosmopolitan group comprising Germany’s Martin Kaymer, South Africa’s George Coetzee, Dane Anders Hansen and Americans Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim share seventh place on level par 210.
Glover, Kaymer, Love 111 and Mickelson are the only golfers in the top 12 with a Major victory behind them raising the very real possibility that the 140th Open Championship at Royal St George’s could provide what would be the 12th different Major winner in a row.
Kaymer, Mickelson and Glover look like the only golfers who can end that run because apart from last year’s Open Champion, Louis Oosthuizen, who is currently in a share of 37th place on six over par 216, none of the other seven recent Major Champions are anywhere in sight.
Darren Clarke has a fine Open Championship record with both a second place (at Royal Troon in 1997) and a third place (at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2001) and sees no reason why he cannot lift the title today.
“Obviously, I’m very excited about that,” he said after finishing the penultimate round. “The Open is the biggest and the best tournament in the world. I have failed 19 times to lift the Claret Jug but I have another opportunity and I’m determined to take it.”
“I have never doubted I would get myself back in this position,” he added. “Did I know it was going to happen? No. Did I hope it was going to happen? Yes. But did I ever doubt it? No.”
This will be the third time that Johnson has been in the last group goes into the final round of a Major and this time he hopes he can finish the job.
“I struggled at the US Open (at Pebble Beach in 2010),” he admitted. “You know, it was the first time I had gone into the last group in the last round of a Major and I had a bad start and it just spiralled down after that.
“The (2010) PGA was much better. I birdied 16 and 17 to get a one should lead. I played well all day. I hung but it just wasn’t to be in the end.
Today I’m just going to go out and play another round of golf,” he added. “I need to keep doing what I’m doing. I just need to stay focused on one shot at a time and see what the golf course gives me.”
20 year-old Englishman, Tom Lewis, holds a two shot lead in the race to win the Silver Medal, awarded to the leading amateur in the field.
He returned a third round 76, for a total of five over par 215, but has American Amateur champion, Peter Uihlein breathing down his neck on 217.