Clark's comeback

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HOWARD CLARK, seven shots behind leader Ronan Rafferty after 10 holes, stormed home in 30 to catch his rival and share the lead at the end of the third round of the Czech Open here yesterday. It was a magnificent comeback and as Clark, who will be 41 on Saturday, said later: "I was dead and buried and someone dug me up again."

Clark, a Yorkshireman with his eye on a sixth Ryder Cup appearance, finished in 66 to Rafferty's 67 and the pair ended the day tied on 200, 13 under par. From the eighth hole Clark had eight threes in 10 holes, which included eagles at the 11th and 17th, birdies at the 12th, 14th and 15th, and pars at the eighth, ninth and 13th.

He was seven under par for the last eight holes but he had one bad scare, at the 15th, where a spectator picked up his ball some 35 yards from the green. Clark ran up to him and the spectator ran off while he was allowed to drop the ball again without penalty. He showed his coolness by pitching the ball 15 feet past the flag and then sinking the putt for a birdie three.

Currently 16th in the Ryder Cup points table, Clark will make the European team if he wins the first prize of pounds 125,000 today. Even second place will probably win him a place but he is looking for his first tournament victory since he won the English Open at Royal Birkdale seven years ago.

Rafferty did not play badly. He had four birdies in his first seven holes and two coming home but he also had bogeys at the 11th and 16th. "I played solid," he said. "And I've no complaints." The American Peter Teravainen and Sweden's Niclas Fasth lie joint-third on 201 with another Swede, Peter Hedblom, fifth on 202.

Other Ryder Cup hopefuls such as David Gilford (71 for 210) Philip Walton (72 for 210), Sandy Lyle (73 for 213) and Mark James (74 for 214) are well behind the pace and have much to do to earn a place against the Americans when the tournament begins at Oak Hill, New York, next month.