DARREN CLARKE has fired caddie John Mulrooney six months after they marched to victory at the British Open.
Clarke's form has plummeted since lifting the Claret Jug at Sandwich and he parted company with Mulrooney after last Friday's 81, the Ulsterman's worst round on tour in five years, left him seven strokes outside the cut in Abu Dhabi.
These two strong-willed Irishmen linked up by chance at last May's Mallorca Open when Mulrooney's player, David Howell, withdrew and Clarke's then caddie Ricci Roberts went to Orlando for the investiture of Ernie Els into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Clarke gave Mulrooney the job full-time after winning for the first time in three years in Mallorca.
However, they nearly broke up the week before the British Open after a furious disagreement on the Sunday at the Scottish Open, then had another dust-up at October's Grand Slam Championship in Bermuda.
GRAEME McDOWELL brought spectators roaring to their feet in Abu Dhabi yesterday with one of the craziest birdies in Tour history.
McDowell fired off a series of crackers on the back nine of his final-round 68 to claim a share of third with Tiger Woods and a cheque for €107,577 in his first tournament of 2012.
Portrush native McDowell lit the fuse with a spectacular hole-in-one with a cut seven-iron at the 179-yard 12th, then chipped in from the fringe at 13, before completing a birdie-birdie finish with a stunning slapstick shot on 18.
Lying in sand, 80 yards shy of the green, after "the worst lay-up in history", McDowell hit his gap-wedge thin. His ball ricocheted noisily off the grandstand and rolled back onto the green, stopping just six feet from the cup.
McDowell won three free nights a year for the rest of his life in Abu Dhabi's seven-star Emirates Palace Hotel with the third ace of the week at 12. In all, he's landed nine holes-in-one, three as a pro, not to mention three albatrosses.
Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington's final round 73 left him in a share of 35th place on three-under par.