THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) – Darren Clarke decided to concentrate more on golf than having a good time at the Target World Challenge, and an 8-under 64 on Saturday put him in position for a real party.

Clarke, who had never broken 70 in his two previous trips to Sherwood Country Club, continued his assault on the par 5s by playing them in 7 under. That allowed him to vault past U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell and take a one-shot lead into the final round.

Clarke made two more eagles, bringing his total this week to five, and putted for eagle on the other three par 5s. A sand wedge into 8 feet on the 18th hole for birdie put him at 14-under 202.

“Usually, this week for me is a party week, but the scoring is getting in the way,” Clarke said.

Campbell had never trailed from his opening-round 63, but fell out of the lead with a three-putt bogey on the par-5 13th hole. He birdied the last two holes for a 68, and was tied with Padraig Harrington (65) at 203.

Kenny Perry had a bogey-free 66 and was at 11-under 205.

Clarke finished at the bottom at the Target World Challenge in 2001 and 2003, which is not to say he’s had a miserable time. The money is free – $1.3 million for first, $160,000 for last – he is good friends with tournament host Tiger Woods, and he never has to look hard to find a good time.

Why the turnaround?

“Lack of beer,” Clarke said.

He laments the first-round 65 that put him in contention, saying it “wrecked my plans for the whole week.”

But then, Clarke could have seen this coming. He won the Taiheiyo Masters in Japan last month, then lost in a playoff at Sun City in South Africa last week when Jim Furyk chipped in. He attributes his late-season form to a season filled with tough times, as his wife Heather battles cancer.

Most players are at the end of a long year. Clarke simply hasn’t played as much, with his “long, hard season” coming from issues off the course.

And while this is merely a 16-man exhibition, Clarke is looking at more than just money. Woods has won or finished second every year since this tournament moved to Sherwood in 2000, and Clarke sees it as an opportunity to beat the No. 1 player.

“Any time you get that chance, you take it,” he said.

That shouldn’t be a problem this year, as Woods continued to struggle. He didn’t make his first birdie until the 11th hole, made three in a row, made another birdie with his worst shot of the day, then dropped a shot on the 18th for a 69 to wind up 11 shots behind.

Campbell has felt as if he has been on a roller coaster since the first round. He had two tap-in eagles Saturday, the first one at No. 2 giving him a five-shot lead. Five holes later, it was gone because of a three-putt, a nasty lie in the rough and the infamous rock in the seventh fairway.

It was first made famous by David Duval in the “Showdown at Sherwood” match against Woods in 1999, when he drove into 7-foot tall boulder surrounded by bushes and flowers.

Campbell figured no one hits a truly straight shot, so he aimed at the rock expecting slight movement.

“I hit it too straight,” he said.

He wasn’t alone in that department, as Clarke also hit into the rock. The difference was Clarke took his penalty drop, then fired his approach into 15 feet and escaped with par.

Clarke pulled away on the back nine, hitting a 4-iron into 8 feet for eagle on the 11th, two-putting for birdie on the 13th, and hitting 5-wood that landed just beyond the hole on the 16th for a two-putt birdie.

Harrington also hit into the rock on No. 7 in the first round, so the top three players have that in common. He rallied with five birdies on the back nine, including the 18th, and will have a good chance to win for the second time in three years.

AP-ES-12-10-05 1857EST


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