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7:59AM

Newsday (N.Y.): Clarke leads Johnson in British Open

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

SANDWICH, England -- One has a lifetime of near misses, the other only a single heart-breaking year. Darren Clarke and Dustin Johnson are  linked more by what they haven't done than what they have.

Clarke, at 5-under-par 205, has a one-shot lead over Johnson after Saturday's third round of the 140th British Open, a tournament battered by weather and elevated by expectations.

"I've failed 19 times to try and lift the Claret Jug,'' Clarke, 42, said of the trophy presented to the champion, "and Sunday, I have the opportunity.''

So does Johnson, 27, from South Carolina whose  near misses in 2010, unable to hold final-round leads at the U.S. Open and PGA  Championship, made him a sympathetic figure.

American pros are winless in the last five majors, including the U.S. Open last month at Congressional, won by Clarke's Northern Irish countryman, Rory McIlroy.

A year ago, another Northern Irishman, Graeme McDowell, won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. And there have been German and South African winners. Now, suddenly the leader board is full of U.S. challengers besides Johnson.

Ten of the top 16 golfers after 54 holes are Americans, including Rickie Fowler, whose  2-under 68 moved him into a tie for third; Lucas Glover, tumbling  from a tie for first after a 73, is tied for fifth; and Anthony Kim, Davis Love III and -- surprise -- Phil  Mickelson are tied for seventh.

The nasty weather forecast arrived Saturday with a bang, 30-mph winds and in the morning steady rain. But conditions started to abate by the time Clarke and Glover teed off at 3  p.m. "We started off in terrible conditions,'' Clarke said, "but then got lucky.''

Clarke shot 1-under 69 with superb ball-striking and only so-so putting.

Johnson shot 2-under 68. Johnson, who in the first round was 4 over through 13 holes, was at 5 under with two to play Saturday but bogeyed 17.

"The European Tour guys have been playing well," Johnson said, alluding to the fact that Mickelson, at the 2010  Masters, was the last U.S. player to take a major. "But I don't think there's anything wrong with the American guys or American golf. We struggled, but we've got a good shot at getting one Sunday.''

Johnson had great shots last year. He was in front at Pebble Beach in the Open, then triple-bogeyed the second hole and double-bogeyed the third. Two months later, after apparently tying for first in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Johnson was penalized for grounding his club in a bunker and missed the playoff won by German Martin Kaymer.

"The U.S. Open,'' Johnson said about his agony, "was the first time I've gone into a major in the last group.''

Sunday will be the third time in the last six tournaments. Knowing the crowd will be cheering for Clarke, Johnson said: "I'm OK with that. He's on his home turf, so I would expect him to have huge crowd support. But the fans out there have been great for me.''

They were out there for McIlroy, as well, but he  played inconsistently, hit a ball out-of-bounds and shot 4-over 74, tying him  with the venerable Tom Watson, the 61-year-old who shot 72 in the worst of the weather and is tied with McIlroy.

Mickelson has only one top 10 finish, a third in 2004, in 17 previous British Opens, but he seems to have figured out links golf. "We got lucky with the weather,'' Mickelson said, echoing Clarke. "We went from fighting for pars on every hole to thinking birdies on some holes.''

Clarke's wife died of cancer just before the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club near Dublin. He chose to play, won all three of his matches and inspired the Europeans to a rout.

Clarke has reordered his life and is engaged to a former Miss Northern Ireland. Asked what it would mean to win the Open, Clarke replied: "Everything. It's the biggest and best tournament in the world.''


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8:47AM

Global Golf Post: Gray Matter: What Was He Thinking?

By Art Spander
For GlobalGolfPost.com


PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA -- He either is courageous or outrageous. Maybe a little of both. As a television reporter, Jim Gray pushes the envelope, and so after an incident the Golf Channel pushed him off the broadcast of the Northern Trust Open.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2011 Global Golf Post
9:01AM

RealClearSports: Wrong Time for Cursed Golfer Johnson

By Art Spander
For RealClearSports.com


PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Golf isn't a sport, it's absurdity. Columnist Jim Murray, who used to belong to Riviera, where they're playing the Northern Trust Open this week, called golf the pursuit of the infinite.

It has rules out of the 19th Century. It has scenarios out of the pages of "Alice in Wonderland."

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2011
9:49AM

RealClearSports: A Game of Quirky Rules and Personal Honor

By Art Spander
For RealClearSports.com


So the cry has been raised: Let's rewrite the rules of golf. And then what, baseball? Football? If it's unfair a player can't ground his club in a bunker, it's also unfair that three strikes are out or that a fumble belongs to the last man who had possession.

Indeed, golf has a lot of quirky regulations. It also has a code of honor, which is why a golfer doesn't have to be watched by a referee or an umpire, not that anyone could follow the progress or regress of 150 people on a course.

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2010
9:21AM

Global Golf Post: Crazy Week, Wild Finish, Solid Winner

By Art Spander
For GlobalGolfPost.com


SHEBOYGAN, WISCONSIN — The PGA Championship, for reasons logical or not, used to be called the major that's a minor. Oh how that has changed. And we're not Whistling Straits, uh, whistling Dixie.

There wasn't much more anybody could wish for from this year's tournament, whether it was the buildup surrounding Tiger and Phil, the fog delays, which turned the opening rounds into Unfinished Symphonies, the swapping of denials over Ryder Cup selections between Corey Pavin and Jim Gray, the course record by the guy from China whose only English may be "You're away," and a stretch run that included almost everyone except Palmer and Nicklaus — or Tiger and Phil.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2010 Global Golf Post