WHEN you’re a prolific champion with 26 tour titles to your name, you need a mantelpiece about the same size as the Hoover Dam to display all these spoils of golfing war. There’s always room for more bounty, though.

“It would be nice to give myself the chance to put this jug next to the other one,” said Darren Clarke after assuming command at the halfway point of the Senior Open here at Gleneagles.

Just over a decade since lifting the original Claret Jug with that thrilling Open triumph at Sandwich, the Northern Irishman stayed on course to plunder a similar clump of silverware as a senior as he eased to the top of the pile on the King’s Course.

The 53-year-old’s three-under 67 gave him an eight-under aggregate and a two-shot cushion over the USA’s Scott Parel.

Since hitting his half century, Clarke has won three times on the lucrative golden oldies circuit but has yet to land one of the over-50s majors. Nothing comes easily in this game, of course. It took Clarke 54 attempts, for instance, before he claimed his one and only major success on the main tour back in 2011.

“There’s a lot of golf to be played yet,” he added of the bountiful twists and turns to come over the weekend.

Clarke looks in fine fettle, though, and polished off a four-under inward half with a birdie on the last, despite having his approach to the par-5 tempered by the hump directly in front of him on the fairway.

“I hit it too low but very straight so it stayed on the fairway,” he said of a shot which had the sting taken out of it but still flew up, over and down towards the green and led to Clarke conjuring a dinky up-and-down for his four. “You just have to take a gamble.”

It’s been a while since Clarke played the King’s Course but memories of those days of yore when the Bell’s Scottish Open was a regular feature here remain.

“I played all those Scottish Opens here and you learn where to hit and where not to, so it’s still beneficial,” he added.

Sitting in the posse on five-under is the South African David Frost, whose eventful week in the home of golf continued as he kept himself in the hunt for the title with a 68.

Despite being a multiple winner on the Champions Tour, Frost discovered he wasn’t actually exempt for the Senior Open so opted to fly over and give final qualifying a crack.

“I’d said to my daughter, ‘I don’t think I’m going to qualifying', but she said, ‘Dad, it’s your job’,” said the 62-year-old. “My luggage didn’t arrive until Tuesday but at least my clubs did. It was very gratifying coming through the qualifier. You’re already spending $3-4,000 before you even start but what else was I going to do? Sit at home, look at the TV and go ‘gee, I wish I was there’?”

Now that he’s here, Frost is certainly making the most of it. He was joined on that five-under mark by two-time Open champions, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington, while the indefatigable Bernhard Langer also finished on five-under after a 68 despite a bizarre double-hit when chipping on to the ninth which led to him leaking a shot.

“I don’t think I could do it again if I tried,” said the 64-year-old, who is hunting down his fifth Senior Open crown in a career of remarkable longevity.

On the home front, Colin Montgomerie produced a late flourish and birdied his closing two holes in sprightly 66 which lifted him to four-under while Paul Lawrie had to settle for a level-par 70 for one-under.

In the scrap to make the cut, meanwhile, there was quite the escapade for the two-time senior major winner, Alex Cejka.

In the kind of doddering dilemma the golf writers tend to find themselves, the German locked his clubs in his car and lost the keys. A frantic, flapping dash ensued. “I waited an hour for a cab and it never showed up so I had to borrow a car just to make my tee-time,” he gasped. “I got a spare set of clubs from the pro shop and only had time to hit two shots before going out.”

His 73 for was good enough to make the cut on the three-over limit. “I learned a lesson,” he added. “Don’t leave your clubs in the car.”