Clarke's Cup aid for 'superstar' Molinari
"Ryder Cup superstar!" is how Darren Clarke described Francesco Molinari after matching the Italian with a two-under-par 68 on the first day of the KLM Open at Hilversum.
Clarke managed five birdies, one more than his 28-year-old playing partner on a Dutch course criticised by many, including US PGA champion Martin Kaymer, who labelled it "unplayable" following recent heavy rain.
Clarke's remark about Molinari seemed timely -- the Turin-born player was walking past him at the time.
The Tyrone man was also asked whether the pair had spoken much about the Ryder Cup.
"Ah, let's say we chatted away," said Clarke still grinning.
That prompted the response: "So were you able to offer Francesco any advice as to what to expect at Celtic Manor?"
"We were just chatting away and I am not going to give away any secrets. I've been doing this for too long to give away anything," said Clarke.
His upbeat demeanour continued the superb mood he's been in all season despite the frustration with his putter.
But yesterday he got round in just 28 putts.
"I had a couple of poor tee shots but it was nice to record five birdies and take just 28 putts on wonderful, simply wonderful greens," said Clarke, still grinning.
Damien McGrane also recorded a 68 but it is Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts who leads the field after matching a European Tour career low in recording an eight-under-par 62.
Colsaerts is two clear of India's Shiv Kapur and England's Ken Ferrie.
Former British Open champion Todd Hamilton played alongside Paul McGinley and the American, who had two eagles in his round of four-under-par 66, indicated that he had asked the Irishman during the round who Colin Montgomerie's Ryder Cup vice-captains were.
Hamilton indicated that McGinley's response had been: "Well, I'm one of them."
McGinley had to wait until the last hole before his only birdie of the day in a one-over-par 71 -- the same score as fellow Irishmen Shane Lowry and Gary Murphy.
Murphy was at the course near 7.0 waiting around as first reserve, monitoring Frenchman Thomas Levet, who seemed doubtful to take his place in the tournament.
However, it was Peter Baker who opened the door for Murphy to compete, with the Englishman pulling out due to a back complaint.
Co Down's Simon Thornton signed for a 69, as did Dubliner Peter Lawrie, while the Ulster pair of Michael Hoey and Gareth Maybin recorded 72s.
KLM Open, Day 2
Live, Sky Sports 3, 10.30