Sport Golf

Saturday 25 November 2017

Chilled-out Clarke defies logic to stay the weekend

Bernie McGuire In Doha, Qatar

Darren Clarke has, it seems, stumbled on to a simple formula to ease the frustration of shooting a well-over-par round of golf.

Clarke looked in one of 'those' moods after Thursday's horror 78 in the Qatar Masters in Doha.

Whether it's the influence of his new fiancée Alison Campbell or simply another example of Clarke continuing to mellow as he gets older, the transformation in his demeanour as he walked from the course near lunch on Day 2 had to be seen to be believed.

Clarke had simply "chilled out" on Thursday night and with a little pre-second round practice, proceeded, in continuing windy conditions, to record five birdies in a round of 69 for a three-over-par tally.

It left Clarke lying right on the cut-off mark and 10 strokes behind Austrian Marcus Brier, who carded a 66 to head the field by a stroke at seven-under-par.


"I was just so frustrated when I came off after Thursday's round that I thought to myself: 'I will just go and have a couple of pints in the clubhouse --,' so I did," said Clarke.

"I went back to the hotel, had a nice meal in the restaurant and just completely chilled out and relaxed.

"So, I got up here this morning about 45 minutes before my tee-off, hit a couple of balls and a few putts, and then I go out and play okay.

"I mean, where is the logic in it all when you can shoot 78 one day and 69 the next?

"It was a very tough first day, but it wasn't unplayable -- I just struggled. Today I've managed five good birdies and dropped just two shots."

South African Darren Fichardt (68) is at six-under par, with three players -- defending champion Robert Karlsson (69), England's Richard Finch (69) and Dane Thomas Bjorn (65) -- at five-under.

Scotland's Paul Lawrie (66) shares sixth spot with South African pair Retief Goosen (71) and Thomas Aiken (69) on four-under.

Four of the leading nine -- Fichardt (2003), Karlsson (2010), Goosen (2007) and Lawrie (1999) -- are former Qatar Masters winners.

If the sight of Brier's name on top of the leaderboard was a surprise, then it was a bigger shock that Lee Westwood missed his first halfway cut in some 13 months.

Westwood had the crowd gathered around the last noisily urging his 25-foot eagle putt into the hole, a putt that would have ensured the current World No 1 made the cut.

However, the ball stopped right on the edge of the cup and Westwood had to sign for a 75 and a four-over-par total.

This left the way open for Martin Kaymer to go to No 1 in the world. The German made it through on the cut mark, but will need something specialto if he is to finish first or second and unseat Westwood.

Kaymer didn't drop a stroke in a 70 yesterday to finish tied with Clarke, Paul McGinley (70), Michael Hoey (73) and World No 7 Steve Stricker (71), among others.

Hoey's round was a mix of five birdies, three bogeys and, like Goosen, he doubled-bogeyed the 17th.

McGinley birdied his closing two holes to be assured of a first pay cheque this year, but Peter Lawrie (77) and Damien McGrane (75) both missed out at five-over par.

Other notable casualties included newly promoted World No 6 Paul Casey and former Qatar winner Henrik Stenson.

Qatar Masters,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 9.30

Irish Independent

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