Clarke carded a one-over-par 73 in sauna-like conditions but with a round that included an eagle, two birdies, three bogeys and a second hole double bogey where he was forced to take an unplayable penalty drop.
The former British Open winner, playing in his 14th PGA Championship on the infamous 1991 Ryder Cup venue, again fought demons that have been spoiling his game in recent years.
“A 73 is a good fight back but I made some stupid errors out there from nowhere,” said Clarke.
“Take the 11th and my second hole when I pushed my tee shot up against the edge of the bunker and using a 9-iron to just chip it out and it caught the top of the bunker kicked right and ran through the rough, so I had to take an unplayable.
“It wasn’t a nice way to start but then I had a lot of birdie chances, like at 18 where I missed a four-footer after hitting a cut rescue club into 17 and holing a 12-footer.”
Clarke headed to Kiawah’s front nine, or his inward nine, but then dropped three shots in succession from his 11th before the highlight of his round at the par-five seventh, his 16th, where his 3-wood second shot landed 30 feet from the flag from where he holed out.
As Clarke was discussing his round, Pádraig Harrington walked past on his way to commence his round, and in the company of sports psychologist Dr Bob Rotella.
Rotella stopped long enough to arrange a meeting with Clarke after the Dungannon man had had lunch.
And while Clarke continued to fight his demons, renowned demon fighter John Daly was again showing signs of his double Major winning ways.
Daly, along with defending PGA Champion plus 2006 US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy, finished with a round of 68.
This year marks the 21st anniversary of Daly’s 1991 PGA success at Crooked Stick and it should not be a surprise Pete Dye designed that course as well as this Ocean Course.
“You just try and thrive on the good things, and what I was doing different back in 1991 at Crooked Stick then,” said Daly. “Also everything is just perfect outside the ropes in my life, so I can concentrate on golf.
“I think more importantly, my mind is right to give me a chance.
“If I make a double, who cares. If I play good here, it doesn’t really matter to me. If I play bad, it doesn’t matter to me. But I want to play good.
“So I’m just kind of loosey-goosey out there, and it just feels good, and I think for me, to just free-wheel it is the only way I can get my confidence back instead of worrying about bad breaks and what somebody else is doing.
“I only need to worry about what I’m doing and go out and attack and play golf and enjoy it.”