“We’re all long enough in the tooth to know that this is only two rounds,” Clarke said.
Jerry Kelly (66) was a stroke back with defending champion Bernhard Langer (67). The 63-year-old Langer, who eagled the first hole, won in 2019 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes for his fourth victory in the event. The 2020 tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kelly, who leads the Schwab Cup, has yet to post a top 10 in this three Senior British Open appearances.
Paul Broadhurst eagled the first and was 5 under on the day, two shots back overall with Ernie Els, a two-time British Open champion who carded his second 67. Broadhurst won in 2016 and was runner-up in 2019.
Like Clarke, Els also has a chance to become the fourth player to win both events. The 51-year-old South African said he’s “fighting hard” to stay close to Clarke, his playing partner.
“Darren is a great frontrunner, played really well today, so got a lot of work to do,” Els said.
The 52-year-old Clarke birdied the first and third but three consecutive bogeys left him 4 under before a birdie on the 9th. He only dropped one more shot and added four more birdies, including the 18th.