Shocking hole puts Darren Clarke in danger of missing another cut
ONE shocking hole put Open champion Darren Clarke in danger of another missed cut in the Alstom French Open at Le Golf National near Paris today.
In his last tournament before defending the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham in a fortnight, Clarke was going along well in joint 20th place with three holes of his second round left.
But in the windy conditions the 43-year-old Northern Irishman, who made his first cut of the year on home turf at Royal Portrush last week, hit his second shot to the par-four seventh into gorse bushes.
After taking a penalty drop he put his next in a bunker, came out short of the green and by taking three more from there a quadruple-bogey eight went on his card.
Suddenly three over par, Clarke slumped to 82nd spot and when he followed it with a bogey, missing the green on the short eighth and failing to get up and down, his hopes of being around for the weekend nosedived further.
Still leading the way was Swede Christian Nilsson, but he had yet to resume on six under and a look at the early scoring told him he was in for a tricky afternoon.
The clubhouse leader was Dane Anders Hansen, round in a fine 68 for four under, by one from England's David Lynn and Italian Ryder Cup player Francesco Molinari, who already has the Spanish Open title under his belt this season.
Ian Poulter stood one under with two to play after an eventful morning. After opening with a one-over 72 he grabbed birdies at the difficult 17th and 18th and saved a remarkable par on the first, spinning his pitch into the hole after finding the lake off the tee.
Playing partner and close friend Justin Rose was fighting hard to stay alive in the event, however.
He bogeyed the 17th and 18th and had a dreaded shank to drop another stroke at the fifth. With two holes remaining he was two over, the expected cut mark.
Colin Montgomerie looked like heading home to prepare for next week's Scottish Open after rounds of 73 and 74 left him five over, while Paul Casey was next to last on 15 over.
The former world number three has still to find form after dislocating his shoulder snowboarding in Colorado on Christmas Eve. Like Clarke, he has made only one cut all year.
Clarke had to settle for a par on the long ninth and so at four over after a 76 had to wait to discover if that was good enough. It looked unlikely unless the wind picked up even more.
Playing partner Casey rounded off another unhappy two days with a lost ball and a triple-bogey eight, giving him a second successive 80.
At 18 over he was in 155th and last place.
Poulter was round in 69 for one under, while Rose birdied the eighth, but then had a closing six to be on two over.
Nilsson bogeyed the 12th, his third, but led on his own again when Wales Open winner Thongchai Jaidee followed an opening birdie with two bogeys in the next three.
The Thai golfer had been in a three-way tie overnight, but Italian teenager Matteo Manassero ran up a triple bogey eight on the third and England's Gary Boyd had three bogeys in his first five holes.
Lee Westwood went 10th with a birdie at the third, but bogeyed two holes later.
Play was suspended at 3.40pm local time because of an approaching storm and by then Nilsson had fallen out of the lead.
Out in front instead were Hansen, Jaidee and German Marcel Siem, one ahead of Nilsson, Molinari and Lynn. Westwood and Graeme McDowell were both only three behind.