Sport Golf

Sunday 22 April 2018

Clarke targets title after electrical storm sparks birdie blitz

Bernie McGuire, IN Turin

An electrical storm delay ignited Darren Clarke's BMW Italian Open claims when he returned to birdie four holes in succession on the Royal Park course in Turin yesterday.

Clarke was staring at a one-foot putt for birdie on the 14th hole of an already saturated course when the warning alarm sounded.

He spent the 80 minutes off the course downing two cups of coffee and lighting up two cigarettes before emerging to knock in his birdie putt -- and he proceeded to birdie the following three.

Clarke could have made it five birdies in a row, despite finding a greenside bunker at the 18th, with his sand wedge shot just missing the hole.

The Ulsterman had jumped from a share of 69th before the stoppage to finish the day in a share of 21st place after a round of 66 for a seven-under-par tally.

"I shot a 63 in the Pro-Am on Wednesday, so I am playing really well," said Clarke.

"As for today, I just couldn't buy a putt until I had birdies at 11 and 12 ahead of the stoppage.

"So, to come out after the delay and birdie four-in-a-row was really good, but then the last could also have gone in and that would have been five in a row.

"I just got too aggressive with my drive on 18 and pulled it into the bunker.

"But I'm just five behind and on this golf course, and in these conditions with the greens just so good despite the rain, that's not too many."

Clarke will be chasing England's Robert Rock, who is still looking for a first Tour win in more than 200 events. Rock, who lost out to Shane Lowry in the 2009 Irish Open play-off, carded a second-round 68 to head the field by one stroke on 12-under par.

Compatriot Chris Wood (69), with Belfast's Dave McNeilly on the bag, and Dutchman Joost Luiten (67) are next best on 11-under par. Six players, among them the Italian duo of Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manessero, both with 68s, are tied in fourth spot at 10-under par.

Meath's Damien McGrane capped his round of 68 with a birdie-eagle-birdie run from the seventh.

He holed a 40-foot chip shot from a spectator walkway for his eagle on route to finishing on five-under.

"I'm hitting so many good shots, but just can't get the ball into the hole," said McGrane.

"But I can't really complain as it's more weekend work and that's always good."

In contrast, Paul McGinley's dismal season continued, with the triple winning Ryder Cup star missing the cut after scores of 75 and 70.

Newcastle's Simon Thornton also missed the cut by one stroke after rounds of 73 and 69.

Italian Open,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 12.0

Irish Independent

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