Wednesday 21 February 2018

Clarke still firmly in hunt for Joburg open honours

William S Callahan

STOKE sentinel David Lynn stood a lonely watch at the head of the Joburg Open field last night, but South African Charl Schwartzel and Ireland's Darren Clarke must both fancy their chances of taking his place at the top when it really counts -- tomorrow evening, WRITES WILLIAM S CALLAHAN.

Schwartzel's appetite has not been sated by last Sunday's victory at The Africa Open. A bogey-free second-round 68 on the formidable East Course at Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club lifted the talented 25-year-old into outright second place on 11-under, one behind Lynn.

However, Clarke was well within reach of his 13th European Tour victory in a four-way tie for third on 10-under after a relatively impressive 69.

The Ulsterman (41) breezed through the front nine in three-under before registering his first five of the week (and only bogey) at 14.

Unluckily, lightning halted play as Clarke perused a five foot putt for birdie at 15. When it resumed a couple of hours later, his putter had gone cold and the chance was missed.

Qualifying School graduate Simon Thornton (32) the former assistant at Royal Co Down, shared 14th place on seven-under with a splendid 65 on the West Course, which featured an eagle three at two.

A top-10 finish would clinch a precious place in Abu Dhabi next week, though Thornton's first thoughts will be for his family and the funeral of his dad, Steve, who died last Saturday week after a short illness.

Thornton only played in South Africa to fulfil his late father's deathbed wish.

A second-round 69 on the East Course saw Michael Hoey safely through the cut on five-under-par. Though 30 players were still playing as darkness fell, Gary Murphy and Niall Kearney both seemed destined to miss out by one on two-under-par.

The Joburg Open,

Live, Sky Sports 4, 10.30

Irish Independent

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