Local favourite Clarke makes bright start at damp Portrush

Northern Irish golfer Darren Clarke watches his drive from a tee. (AFP pic)

PORTRUSH: Local favourite Darren Clarke made a bright start to the British Open Championship at Royal Portrush on Thursday as crowds flocked to the first major in Northern Ireland since 1951.

Clarke, who lives in Portrush, collected three birdies from the opening five holes but a bogey on the par-five seventh tempered his impressive start.

Rory McIlroy, another player who can expect plenty of backing from the sold-out crowd, was due to tee off at 10.09am local time in a group with 2019 US Open winner Gary Woodland and England’s Paul Casey.

Despite damp weather for a second successive day, fans arrived early and in number for the sold-out tournament, with the expected total attendance of 237,750 making it the best-attended British Open outside of St Andrews in Scotland.