Thursday 18 January 2018

Seven proves far from lucky for Clarke as he misses cut

William S Callahan

ONE horror hole cut short Darren Clarke's final outing before his defence of the Claret Jug at Lytham the week after next ... but Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell were still very much in the running entering the weekend at the French Open.

Clarke, playing with confidence after making the cut for the first time this year at last week's Irish Open, was purring along on one-under as he walked to the seventh tee at Le France National.

Then disaster struck. Barely 12 feet wide of the fairway with his drive, Clarke had to hit his next shot out of a vicious hanging lie. His ball flew into a gorse bush and, after taking a penalty drop, it landed in a bunker.

Short of the green in five, Clarke took three to get down for a nightmare eight, then made bogey four after short-siding himself in the right rough at the next.

Left with little chance to recover, he signed for a 76 and missed the cut on four-over ... a staggering turnaround which did scant justice to Clarke's general play on a gruelling, rain-doused course.

Lowry (25) eased to two-under, just four shy of leader Marcel Siem, with his second 70. Once again, the Clara native played his homeward nine in a faultless three-under.

Siem took charge with two impressive rounds of 68. Yet McDowell would have been snapping at his heels had his putter behaved. The Portrush man struck the ball sublimely from tee to green but had to settle for a 69 after a three-putt bogey at 16 and missed birdie chances at 15 and 16.

Dubliner Peter Lawrie was the only other Irishman to make the weekend, squeezing through on the mark, three-over, after a 72 which included 35 putts, and three bogeys in his final seven holes.

Lee Westwood also found the going tough on that daunting back nine. He dropped shots at 13, 14 and 15 before a birdie at 16 saw him through on two-over.

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Irish Independent

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