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Finishing touch frustrates Clarke

BASEBALL legend Yogi Berra had a wonderful gift which even outshone his ability as a ball-player.

Berra was fluent in gibberish, hilariously so. Once, after being told he looked cool, Yogi replied: "Thanks, you don't look so hot yourself."

He used caution people "I didn't really say everything I said".

Like: "When you come to the fork in the road, take it", "it's not the heat, it's the humility" or "the towels were so thick (at the hotel), I could hardly close my suitcase".

Yet not even Berra could have made Darren Clarke smile in East London yesterday after the Ulsterman, for the second day in succession at the Africa Open, took the gloss of a reasonable performance with an infuriating bogey at his final hole.

As Yogi famously suggested: "This is like deja-vu all over again".

His second-round 70 left Clarke in a tie for 25th place on seven-under par and seven strokes off the blistering pace set by South Africa's Trevor Fisher Junior (30) after the Sunshine Tour regular shot another sweet 66 yesterday.

Yet the Irishman should not be ruled out of contention just yet.


Though Fisher, a four-times winner on the Sunshine circuit, performed splendidly in the first 36 holes as he established a one-stroke lead over Sweden's Patrik Sjoland, Clarke has enough class to scatter the opposition this weekend.

A stroke of luck here; a touch more consistency there -- that's all it requires.

For example, after an impressive stretch which saw him hit 12 successive greens in regulation, picking up three birdies in the process, Clarke was unfortunate when his five-wood tee shot at eight, his final hole of the day, came to rest on a steep slope in the fairway.

Forced to strike his approach shot from a lie well below his feet, Clarke missed the green right, left his chip from the stubbly rough short and took two more to get down from the fringe -- lunch must have tasted foul after that.

Michael Hoey was just one stroke behind fellow Ulsterman Clarke on six-under after a second-round 72 which required patience and resolve.

Hoey has survived several tests of nerve this week, not least the belated arrival of his suitcase and golf clubs on Wednesday night. Yesterday he dropped two shots in his first four holes but stuck doggedly to his task, picking up three birdies on his homeward nine.

The cut fell at five-under, one outside the all-time European Tour low. Gary Murphy (75, 73, +2), Simon Thornton (74, 75, +3) and Niall Kearney (73, 77, +4) all missed out.

Yet all three live to fight another day at next week's Joburg Open, Murphy and Thornton by virtue of the cards the won at Q-School and Kearney thanks to a second sponsor's invite.

Kearney was struck by a 24-hour stomach bug on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning but still enjoyed his two-day European Tour debut in the company of tournament leader Fisher and struggling South African Anton Haig (79, 79, +12).

"Physically, I felt a bit better today, though not at 100pc," said the 21-year-old, adding: "I didn't get the rub of the green."

He found it difficult to judge how much further the ball seems to fly in South Africa, especially significant on a tight, strategic course like East London, while the Dubliner "didn't get up and down a lot" out of unfamiliar and unpredictable grass around the greens.

"Sure, it's all part of the learning process," he smiled. "I'm just delighted to have the opportunity to play again next week."

Africa Open, Live, Sky Sports 2, 10.30

Irish Independent