Th beard is grey but the waistline is thin. Maybe now, Darren Clarke has found his winning formula. The 45 year old says he’s finally getting his rhythm thing back after firing a super 67 at Hoylake to caress just his third Top-10 finish since he won The Open three years ago.
After losing more than 30 lbs lifting weights in the gym over the winter — something he enjoys and still does almost daily — he confessed that it has taken him more than seven months to get his timing back.
He said: “If you've got 50 pounds or 60 pounds sitting in front of your gut, you're going to swing a lot slower through the ball than what you would do otherwise.
“And I kept leaving the club behind me. And I've done a few things this week. The club's got back in front of me again, so it's been better.”
The 2011 Open champion finally hit top gear in The Open as he ripped up an admittedly soft and almost windless Royal Liverpool with five birdies in a magical six-hole stretch around the turn.
Down to 394th in the world after racking up just two Top-10 finishes since he lifted the Claret Jug at Sandwich, he’s looking to kick on now and revive his career.
Clarke said: “I played nicely all day today. Gave myself lots of chances. Made a few, missed a few. I just enjoy The Open. It's the biggest and best tournament in the world.
“I enjoy playing links golf and The Open Championship is one that I always look forward to playing from the start of the year.”
The Dungannon man, 45, produced fireworks as he headed for the turn after starting his round at the 10th.
He birdied the 17th and 18th to turn in two under and then reeled off four more birdies in the next five holes with his only error a three-putt bogey at the third.
After taking just 28 putts, Clarke said: “I just kept hitting it close, and then had a silly three-putt on the third from just off the edge of the green, and managed to hole a 40-footer on the next one to get it straight back again.
“So it was good. I played nicely. I've been playing okay for quite some time. Today I holed a couple of putts and managed to keep some momentum going.”
He’s now so dedicated to his gym routine that he had no plans to reward himself last night until he’d hit the weights.
He joked: “It’s not quite Jane Fonda's workout, but I'll probably go to the gym this afternoon and lift some weights for 20, 25 minutes.”
Asked if he’d then hit the beer, he beamed: “I'll probably have a couple of glasses of wine, but that's about it. I'm not a teetotaller angel or anything, far from that.”