Darren Clarke in action during the second round of the 140th Open Championship played at Royal St George’s. Picture: Phil Inglis / www.golffile.ieDarren Clarke wants to shake up the Open with his birdies not his booty as he chases his Claret Jug dream.

The 18-stone Ulsterman has drawn wolf-whistles and cheers when he’s warmed up on the first tee with some rear end wiggles.

But he’s made some nice moves with his clubs too and know he’s got a chance of crash the Irish major party and join pals Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy in the Grand Slam club.

Clarke joked: “Somebody was whistling at me when I was bending over stretching.  I said, ‘I hope that was a lady.’  But he whistled again, same guy.  I’m doing something all wrong.”

Veteran Clarke, 42, did it all right on the course as he racked up an eagle and five birdies in a roller coaster 68 that gave him a share of the halfway lead with the bearded American Lucas Glover on four under par - just four shots clear of McIlroy, who is lurking ominously on level par after a great par save at the last gave him a 69.

And while he admits that winning the Open would be massive challenge in high winds this weekend, he insists that he’s ready for anything after surviving the gut-wrenching drama of the 2006 Ryder Cup at The K Club.

Recalling his heart-breaking performance there just five weeks after the tragic death of his wife Heather, Clarke said: “Nothing could be more difficult than that particular week. I wouldn’t say it’s a breeze, but nothing would be more difficult than it was at The K Club.”

Once the star man, he’s become the forgotten man of Irish golf as Padraig Harrington and fellow Ulstermen McDowell and McIlroy racked up five major wins in the last 16 majors.

Picture: Phil INGLIS / www.golffile.ieMany expected the former rugby flanker to become the first to win a big once since Fred Daly’s Open win of 1947.

Yet while he’s been massively successful, winning 21 pro titles and more than €20 million in prize money, he’s ready to crown his career by lifting the famous old trophy tomorrow night.

Clarke said: ‘It would mean an awful lot, but obviously this is only after two rounds.  There’s an awful long way to go yet.

“I believe the forecast for the weekend is very, very poor, which I quite look forward to.  But the course is going to play very, very tough and it’s very open.”

It’s been suggested that Clarke was green with envy as he watched McIlroy and McDowell capture back-to-back US Opens.

But his emotions were quite the opposite and he’s determined not to be the odd man out.

Motivated to join them, he insisted: “Why would I be jealous?  I’m more proud than jealous.  

“A lot of people there telling me it’s been great that those two boys can do it, it’s your turn now and blah, blah, blah, but it was such a big deal to have Rory winning on the back of GMac, as well.  

“Everybody was over the moon with it.  But there was certainly a feeling of them telling me to get my finger out, et cetera, et cetera.”

If the bad weather forecast for today and tomorrow is correct, Clarke could well join growing list of Irish major winners.

Well-practiced in bad weather play since he moved back to Portrush last year, he said: “It’s a case of getting used to playing in bad weather on links again, and that’s what I’ve been doing all over the winter at home.  Hopefully it will stand me in good stead.”

Picture: Phil INGLIS / www.golffile.ieHe can sparkle in the sunshine too as he proved in a roller-coaster second round show that thrilled the 40,000 strong galleries.

Confident on the greens again thanks to help from mind guru Dr Bob Rotella - he admitted he’s “broken” several other mental coaches - Clarke birdied the par-three third from 10 feet to get to three under par.

He slipped back immediately with a double bogey six at the next where his chip from right of the green came back off a slope and returned to his feet.

But he was soon motoring again and putting superbly for the first time since he captured the Iberdrola Open in Mallorca in May.

He got the crowds roaring at the par-five seventh where his approach bounced off the rivetted face of a fairway trap and came up just short of the green.

Taking his putter from Irish caddie John Mulrooney, he sent his monster, 100-foot putt racing at the hole and raised the club to salute a huge cheer that rose as it clattered into the pin and dropped for a sweet eagle three.

He was at it again at the eighth where he hit a three-iron to five feet and rolled home the birdie chance to get to within a shot of the lead.

A bogey at the ninth stopped his charge but he was soon putting like a genius again, draining birdie putts at the 12th and 13th to top the leaderboard on five under.

He wobbled with bogeys at the 14th, where he overshot the green, and 16th, where he failed to get up and down from greenside sand.

But he finished like a champion, bravely cutting a seven iron in to 20 feet at the last before draining the putt to another huge cheer.

Beaming after his round he said: “It was a little bit more adventurous today than yesterday.  There was some good and some not so good, but overall 68 is very pleasing.”

A true mood player, he again thanked mental guru Rotella for giving him the tools to play with a smile on his face.

He’s had 16 single putts in two rounds and he knows he’s hitting the ball well enough to contend for a dream victory that escaped him at Troon in 1997, where he finished second to Justin Leonard.

Asked if he truly believes he can win Clarke smiled and said: “Of course I do. There’s an awful long way to go to Sunday, but  I’m in a position which I’m very pleased to be in and hopefully come Sunday I can get myself right in the mix.”

McIlroy had four birdies and three bogeys in a 69 but the highlight of his day was a great par save from 10 feet at the last he believes could prove crucial to his chances of winning back-to-back majors.

“Yeah, it was huge,” said McIlroy, who was plugged in a greenside trap. “I put myself under a lot of pressure to hole that putt. I thought it was going to be a big putt for me, and makes me feel pretty good headed into the weekend.”

McIlroy missed four putts inside 10 feet and knows he is easily playing well enough to become the youngest Open champion since 1893.

“I can’t go out and be defensive, especially now. But four shots in 36 holes on this golf course in these conditions is nothing. It really isn’t.

“I’m very happy with my position, and I just need to keep doing the same things I’ve been doing.”