British Open: Darren Clarke surges up leaderboard with second straight 2-under 68

SANDWICH, England — A player from Northern Ireland charged up the leaderboard at the British Open.

Just not the one you might expect.

Darren Clarke shot his second straight 2-under 68 on Friday, taking a lead role heading to the weekend and showing his younger countrymen a thing or two at Royal St. George’s.

Once the face of Northern Ireland golf, the 42-year-old Clarke became an afterthought when first Graeme McDowell, then Rory McIlroy claimed major championships. Maybe it’s time for the old guy to get his title, too.

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

Clarke rolled in a 90-footer for eagle at the seventh and closed his round with a birdie at the tough 18th, sending him to the clubhouse tied for the top spot with Lucas Glover.

Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, followed an opening 66 with a solid 70 on a warm, sunny day on the English seaside.

“I didn’t hole as many putts as I did yesterday,” the bearded Glover said. “But I’m happy to grind out even par.”

The U.S. has gone five straight majors without a title — its longest drought of the modern Grand Slam era. Glover shrugged off the slump; besides, he could be in line to snap another streak.

“They told me no one has won the Open championship with a beard since the 1890s,” he said.

Also in contention from the other side of the Atlantic: Chad Campbell, who shot 68 and was one shot back at 3-under 137; old-timers Davis Love III (68) and Tom Lehman (67), both at 138; and, yes, even Phil Mickelson, who came to England trying to forget his Open record.

Lefty has only one top-10 finish in 17 previous appearances. Despite missing several short putts over the first two days, a 69 made him a factor at 139.

“It’s fun to be in contention heading to the weekend of the British Open,” he said.

The forecast looked much worse for the weekend, with both wind and rain expected.

Bring it on, said Mickelson.

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