Darren Clarke jumped to attention under doctor’s orders to putt his way into contention for major glory.
The Ulster veteran, 42, cracked five birdies a super 68 to finish just three shots behind leaders Tom Lewis and Thomas Bjorn and immediately thanked mental guru Dr Bob Rotella.
After using the blade just 28 times, Clarke beamed: “I’ve been lucky this week and seen an old friend of mine in Bob Rotella.
“I haven’t seen him for quite some time and was able to catch up with him because my ball striking and tee-to-green stuff has been very good, very solid, but the putter has been poor.
“Today it was very good. I didn’t hole everything by any stretch of the imagination but I putted nicely. Any time I step back on links I always enjoy it.”
Asked what the Doc had ordered, Clarke said: “He charges me a lot of money, so I can’t tell you that. But he knows me inside out. We’ve worked together for a very long time.”
Clarke said before the start that he needed his putter to fire on all cylinders to win the Open at his 21st attempt.
While he’s won three times since 2008 with his latest victory coming in Mallorca this season, his cold putter has prevented him from re-establishing himself in the world’s top 100.
Ranked 111th starting the week, he has been overshadowed in the ISM stable by major winners Louis Oosthuizen Charl Schwartzel and Rory McIlroy as well as world No 2 Lee Westwood.
But he showed he’s still a force to be reckoned with on links terrain as he survived some blustery early conditions and then took advantage of a drop in the wind late in the afternoon.
He bogeyed the first when he drove into the right rough and the failed to get up and down with the putter from right of the green.
But he soon got the putter working and holed birdie putts from xx feet at the second and 25 feet at the 495-yard fourth to dip into red figures.
He dropped his only shot on the front nine with a disappointing six at the seventh.
But he got his round back on track at the 10th when he drained a monster 50 foot putt from off the back of the 10th to get back to one under par.
He used his trademark sawed-off follow through to safely find the green at the long, par-three 11th.
Two putts from the bottom tier were just what the doctor ordered on one of the toughest holes at Royal St George’s.
He was looking for another birdie at the short, par-four 12th but pushed his drive into a deep bunker, blasted back to the fairway and then lipped out for his par after a fine wedge to just eight feet.
Back to level par for the championship, Clarke soon got the putter working again to barge his way onto the first page of the leaderboard.
After birdies from 10 feet at the 13th and 14th, he then parred his way home and insisted he’s not too old to win a major,
Believing he’s got enough in the tank to keep it up for another 54 holes, he said: “I’m not that old yet, am I? I’m only 42. I still behave as if I’m 14.
“But no, I’m enjoying it. The golf course is great, fantastic. It’s the biggest and best tournament in the world. Why wouldn’t I enjoy it?”