Sunday 15 December 2019

Singh moves clear at top in Killarney

Jeev Milkha Singh moved three shots into the lead at the Irish Open. Photo: Sportsfile
Jeev Milkha Singh moved three shots into the lead at the Irish Open. Photo: Sportsfile

Mark Garrod

Jeev Milkha Singh hit back from a bad start to stretch his Irish Open lead to three strokes in Killarney today.

After opening with an eight-under 63, which matched his lowest round on the European Tour, the 39-year-old Indian hit his first drive into the hazard beside Lough Leane.

But the big surpise and disappointment, for the home crowd, was British Open champion Darren Clarke failing to make the cut.

He was eliminated from the tournament after carding a poor back nine.

Singh bogeyed that hole and the 418-yard fourth, but also sank an eight-foot birdie putt at the second and then picked up more strokes on the seventh and short 10th.

He was nine under par, with Scot Richie Ramsay and Ireland's Damien McGrane next best on six under after Frenchman Alexandre Kaleka, second overnight, resumed with a triple-bogey seven.

Open champion Darren Clarke mixed three birdies with three bogeys in his first 11 holes to remain two under, but three-time major winner Padraig Harrington was in severe danger of missing the halfway cut with seven holes to play.

Only round in 73 yesterday, Harrington raised his hopes with a 15-foot birdie putt on the first and then a marvellous saved par at the second.

He drove under a tree there and advanced his ball only a few yards into more thick rough, but managed to get his next attempt running onto the green and it curled round to within five feet of the flag.

However, the Dubliner then double-bogeyed the short sixth, dropped another on the long next and, after a birdie at the eighth, returned to four over - and joint 129th place in the 150-strong field - with a bogey at the short 10th.

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, past and present US Open champions, were among the later starters on one under and one over respectively.

McIlroy's closing double-bogey six yesterday was followed by a Twitter row with television commentator Jay Townsend, who criticised the 22-year-old's course management.

McIlroy told him to "Shut up" and called the 49-year-old former European Tour member "a failed golfer", but tournament director David Probyn said today he did not see the spat as a matter for him.

The Tour's code of conduct tells members it is their obligation to "refrain from comments to media that attack, disparage or criticise tournament sponsors or promoters, fellow competitors, the European Tour or its officials."

Townsend does not fall into any of those categories.

Singh remained nine under with four to go and his lead was down to two when England's Simon Wakefield birdied the 16th and 17th to reach seven under.

Just one further back was 22-year-old Northern Irish amateur Paul Cutler, doing his hopes of a Walker Cup cap in September no harm at all with rounds of 69 and 67 which began with him holing his pitch shot to the first for an eagle two yesterday.

His goal was to make the cut, but now he was being asked about his chance of emulating friend Shane Lowry, who won the title as an amateur only two years ago.

"I think it would be silly to think I can win it," he said, but when pressed on whether he thought he could he replied: "Yeah, why not?"

Clarke was back to level par and not certain to make the cut when he had a hat-trick of bogeys from the 11th, while Harrington looked sure to crash out when he stayed four over with three to go.

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