Mixed emotions as Rock emulates Clarke
Proud Lahinch members looked with heightening anxiety, as the figures got progressively lower. Pádraig Harrington's 63 was acceptable on a beautiful opening day, but Robert Rock's 60 on Saturday prompted mixed emotions.
When some of the game's top players come to town, there's always the conflict between attractive scoring and the possibility of one's beloved turf being ripped to shreds. Members of The K Club knew that feeling 20 years ago, when Darren Clarke carded 60 in the second round of the Smurfit European Open.
It is revealing to compare it with Rock's, the first 60 in an Irish Open. Faced with a different configuration in those days and an overall length of 7,179 yards, Clarke finished on what is now the ninth, having started on the 10th, now the first. By comparison, Lahinch, from an original measurement of 7,035, was trimmed by around 100 yards for Saturday's play. In the event, the Dungannon player carded 12 birdies including eight in a row. And his putt of 24 feet for a 59, was about five feet shorter than the one Rock had for eagle on Saturday's 18th.
How are these scoring exploits achieved? "They're very, very difficult and often have little to do with your ability to hit a golf ball," said Harrington. "In fact how you're swinging the club is the furthest thing from your mind. It's got to do with your ability to let yourself hit the ball and not get in the way."