| Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke are flying the flag for Northern Ireland at Royal St George's [GALLO/GETTY]
Darren Clarke rode a roller-coaster round of 68 for a share of the early clubhouse lead on day two of the British Open on Friday to spark speculation of yet another Northern Irish major triumph.
Clarke had five birdies and an eagle but also three bogeys and a double-bogey in a second successive two-under par 68, putting him alongside American Lucas Glover on 136, four-under-par.
The former Ryder Cup player has been the torchbearer for Northern Irish golf for more than 20 years but, having never won a major, the 42-year-old found himself eclipsed recently as Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy both triumphed in the U.S. Open.
"I've been delighted for both of them though it personally hasn't made much difference to me," Clarke told reporters.
"There were a lot of people telling me it's been great that those two boys can do it, it's your turn now"
"To have back-to-back U.S. Open champions from a little country like Northern Ireland, that's a massive achievement. You can't explain how big that actually is.
"We've got two wonderful ambassadors for Northern Ireland in G-Mac and Rory and it's been great.
"There were a lot of people telling me it's been great that those two boys can do it, it's your turn now."
McDowell could have done with some help on Friday as he followed a promising opening 68 with a seven-over 77 that could mean he will miss the cut.
McIlroy, who shot a 71 on Thursday in the first round he played since his U.S. Open success last month, was among the later starters.
Clarke was blessed with warm, wind-less conditions when he went out early on Friday but kept the scorers and the galleries on their toes with a birdie at three, double-bogey at four, eagle at seven and a birdie at eight.
He dropped three strokes and gained three on the way home, happily finishing off with a fine 15-foot putt for a birdie on the last.
"It was a little bit more adventurous today than yesterday. There was some good and some not so good but overall 68 is very pleasing," said Clarke.