Golf: Bunker slows Clarke down

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ANY DAY when Colin Montgomerie wears a baseball cap makes little sense. A prestigious title and a handsome prize pot could not compensate for a lack of atmosphere created by the venue, the small gallery and the black clouds above. Darren Clarke, much recovered from the flu which accompanied his 67 on Thursday, lost sole possession of the lead in the One 2 One British Masters.

Instead of taking the commanding advantage his play deserved, the Irishman scored a 71 to move to six under but was joined there by Carl Suneson. Clarke had not dropped a shot or missed a green until the 15th when he did both, thanks to his ball being plugged in a bunker.

He also dropped a shot at the next. "Another example of how to take as many shots as I possibly could," Clarke said of his round. "I feel a lot better today. Maybe if I had felt as bad as yesterday I might have holed some putts." Suneson had better luck as he added a second consecutive 69.

Suneson, who has problems with a hyperactive thyroid, is a naturalised Spaniard who played his amateur golf in Warwickshire. Two other near locals produced the best scores of the day, Paul Broadhurst, who learnt his golf at Atherstone, with a 65 and Ian Woosnam, raised in Oswestry, a 66.

Woosnam almost got the prize for the best use of the sponsor's services when he was six over par after five holes. He had just double bogeyed the 16th and could have done with a mobile phone to give his private pilot a call. "I must admit that I thought I would be home this afternoon," Woosie said.

But strange things can happen in the middle of a golf round, as the Welshman knows all too well. In 1994, Woosnam was 14 strokes off the lead after 26 holes of the Cannes Open. His pilot was walking in the gallery and was swiftly dispatched, but Woosie played the last 46 holes in 20 under par and won by five strokes.

On this occasion, Woosnam birdied the 17th and then played the front nine in 28. "I haven't done that very often," he said. He holed putts of three feet, 10, 10 and three for four birdies in a row and then missed a ten-footer at the fifth.

A three-wood to 12 feet at the seventh set him up for an eagle and a six-iron to five feet at the eighth and a 25-footer at the last gave him two more birdies. "It was pretty special but I didn't play much different from to the way I have been playing," Woosie said. "The putts just started to go in."

Woosnam has had so little luck on the greens of late that he spent last week practising on the green baize of his snooker table at home. "I aimed down the line of the brown, blue, pink and black spots," he explained. "You can't get a purer surface to putt on but everything was going three inches right."

But on days such as this when Woosnam senses the putts might drop, he demonstrates that his iron play has not diminished despite the passing of his 40th birthday earlier in the year.

Woosnam managed to improve 10 strokes between the two halves of his round, while Broadhurst went from seven over on Thursday to seven under yesterday. There was not a bogey on his card to detract from the seven birdies. Broadhurst, a Ryder Cup player seven years ago whose talent suggested he would win more than the four occasions he has managed so far, is someone who specialises in the occasional low score.

Quite how, he is at a loss to explain. "God knows how I can go from seven over to seven under," the 33-year-old said. "I am still driving the ball crap. I drove the ball terribly yesterday and this shows what a funny game it is. I don't feel I'm playing particularly well but I'm there for the weekend."

All of which must be a mystery to a youth who seemed to make the game look so simple at the Open. Justin Rose improved on his opening round of 80 with a two-under 70 but at six over he was never going to make the cut. His professional career now consists of six tournaments and six missed cuts.