Only a few weeks after talking about giving up golf for a while because things were going so badly, Darren Clarke bounced back into the spotlight today.
Clarke, spurred on by fellow Northern Irishmen Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, leads the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond after a six under par 65.
And there is an added incentive for the 40-year-old. This is his last chance to grab a place in The Open next week.
“I’ve been on Tour for a long time,” he said when asked about the one St Andrews spot on offer.
“This is the first round and there’s an awful long way to go, but of course I would love to qualify.”
The Ryder Cup hero will return in the morning a stroke ahead of England’s Graeme Storm, Ireland’s Damien McGrane and Italian Edoardo Molinari.
McDowell, returning to Tour life three weeks after his US Open triumph, trails by six after what he described as a “mixed bag” and Masters champion Phil Mickelson is on the same level par mark as he began his bid for the top two finish which would take him to world number one for the first time.
Clarke did not drop a shot all day, collecting four birdies in six holes from the third, making further birdies at the 13th and 14th and then saving par from a greenside bunker on the last during a torrential downpour.
“It was pretty tough. The wind was swirling it got very wet for the last couple of holes.”
The round did not come totally out of blue.
He was a runner-up in South Africa in January, was sixth in Portugal last month and on Tuesday won the star-studded JP McManus featuring Tiger Woods at Adare Manor in west Ireland.