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Champions Tour (CHAMP)

Darren Clarke (66) takes early lead at Regions

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Darren Clarke fired a six-under 66 on Thursday to take the 18-hole lead at the Regions Tradition major in Birmingham, Ala.

Clarke birdied five holes on the front nine — he started on No. 10 — to take a one-shot lead over Jerry Kelly and Stephen Ames, who both carded 67s at the Greystone Golf & Country Club.

Defending champion Steve Stricker is tied for fourth with two others after shooting a 68. He’s joined by Alex Cejka and Mike Weir at 4 under.

Seven players are T7 at 3 under.

The event is four rounds and the purse is $2.4 million.

Clarke birdied his first two holes to make the turn at 5 under. He carded two more on his round before a bogey at the par 4 8th hole.

“All in all, 6 under par is a pretty decent start,” Clarke said, adding that there’s the added excitement of playing in a major.

“Majors are majors, it doesn’t make any difference which tour they’re on. You want to play well,” Clarke said. “You ask Tiger Woods, you ask Rory McIlroy, you ask Dustin, you ask Mr. Nicklaus, you ask anybody, majors are what they all want, and it’s the same out here. We all want them, too.

“There’s a little bit of added excitement, four-round tournament. I think it’s the first tournament I’ve walked since Pebble Beach last year, so my legs are a little bit sore. Going to go down to the range, do a little bit of work and then relax and get ready for (Friday) again,” he said.

Kelly came out of the gate strong with four birdies in his first five holes. He bogeyed No. 6 but played clean golf the rest of the way, adding two more birdies.

“I love tree-lined golf courses. Even if they’re wide, it gives me that alleyway to shoot it down. It would be kind of like a bowler having lanes 15 yards wide,” Kelly said. “I don’t know if they could really throw the strike off the edge of the lane like they do. That’s kind of the way I am on big, wide open courses, I don’t have any parameters. So put me in some trees, I love it.”

–Field Level Media

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