Sport Golf

Thursday 22 February 2018

Come and get close to me -- but not that close, says polite Clarke

Bernie McGuire in Kuala Lumpur

Among the promotional material lining the entrance to this week's Maybank Malaysian Open host venue is a poster of Darren Clarke with the caption, 'Come and get close to me'.

That's exactly what a handful of photographers sought to do on the opening tee of the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club course.

But Clarke was having none of it and politely reminded them to keep their distance before teeing off on the first day of the $2m event being played in the Malaysian capital.

However, this did not prevent him pushing his drive way to the right off the first tee, though he did recover superbly to birdie the 367-metre uphill hole.

The Dungannon golfer eventually carded a one-over 73 that included back-to-back birdies to finish.

Spain's Ignacio Garrido and Welshman Rhys Davies head the field after carding seven-under-par 65s to be one clear of two players, Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee and Korean Dae-Hyun Kim.

Clarke was not the only player distracted by the non-golfing photographers, as Jaidee complained after his round that he was also disturbed on the first tee.

"Someone took a photo of me before I hit, but I got lucky as my ball hit the cart path and it went a further 150-yards more than my normal drive," said Jaidee.

"So, I was able to use a wedge for my second and managed to birdie the hole."

Clarke put the incident aside and raced to two-under when he birdied the third hole, before coming unstuck at the fifth and sixth where he dropped three shots.

He three-putted the fifth from 12-feet for bogey and then double-bogeyed the next after having to play a difficult third shot from the edge of a bunker. Further bogeys followed at the 11th and 15th before the delight of birdies over his closing two holes.

A week ago, Peter Lawrie had three layers on when he won the Links Presdient's Prize at Royal Dublin, but yesterday he admitted that it was the hottest he had ever experienced in his eight-year pro career after carding a three-under 69 to lie four off the pace.

Lawrie recorded four birdies and just one bogey before the threat of a thunderstorm halted play for the day leaving 30 players in the 156-player field still to complete their rounds. Among them is Gary Murphy. who was on his last hole but at a disappointing six-over-par.

Live, Sky Sports 2, 7.0am

Irish Independent

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