Clarke endures long day at the office
Saturday 27 September 2003
The quickest Darren Clarke moved all day was from the recorder's hut to the driving range, from the driving range to the media interview room, and from there to the gym. Having been required to spend six hours on the course during the second round of the Dunhill Links Championship, the Irishman was rushing to fit in everything else he needed to do with his day.
The Old Course may be so named because that is what you are after completing a fourball around its 18 ancient holes. It can take a while and it is best to bring along some good company, which is why Ernie Els chooses to partner his father in this pro-am event.
Els was in the last group of the day on the Old Course, one of three courses used in the tournament, the others being Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. The South African hit his final tee shot of the day exactly five hours and 50 minutes after his first but a birdie at the ninth gave him a 65, the best round of the day.
It left the European order of merit leader on seven under, just two strokes out of the lead. The trio of leaders included Clarke, who could do with picking up the massive first prize of £490,000 to cut Els's lead on the money list, although he could do with the South African dropping down the leaderboard. "I know I am going to have to play exceptionally well over the last few weeks of the season to beat Ernie," Clarke said.
Clarke added a 68 to his 67 at Carnoustie the day before to tie David Howell and Peter Lawrie, who were both playing at Kingsbarns. The afternoon sunshine was glorious but those who took a walk along the western sands were at least rewarded by not having to constantly stop while nothing happened. On the course, some groups had to wait up to three-quarters of an hour to tee off on one hole.
Some professionals play golf as if they have nothing else to do that day and the trouble with this tournament is that the "professional amateurs" playing alongside them are in the same boat. Worse, this attitude is infiltrating true amateur club golf, where some people's lengthy pre-shot routines would be better replaced with scurrying along to play the inevitable recovery shot.
Clarke did have somewhere to go at the conclusion of his day and it was not the bar. After setting up with a personal trainer he needed get his heart rate up slightly higher than his earlier exertions.
The one moment the blood was really flowing was walking off the 18th after he had driven to within 20 yards of the green and then four-putted for a bogey. His first putt almost made it through the Valley of Sin in front of the green but, in what is an enduring sight in front of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse, the ball retreated down the bank.
Lee Westwood is at six under after a 68 on the Old Course, which he once described as "not being in the top-200 courses in Fife". Sacrilege, of course. "I'm learning to like it," Westwood admitted. This education was helped a couple of years ago when the veteran caddie Dave Musgrove carried his bag here.
"He gave me an idea and an appreciation of how to play it," Westwood explained. "He just showed me different ways to play certain holes. I think it is a great risk-reward course." Westwood, who won for the first time in three years last month, was delighted with his first two days' work, which have amounted to 30 pars and six birdies at Carnoustie and St Andrews.
Colin Montgomerie took a backward step when he putted into the famous Road Hole Bunker at the 17th hole. Playing the back nine of the Old Course first, Monty was short and left of the gaping chasm that is one of the most well known hazards in all of golf. Rejecting an aerial route over the sand, the Scot attempted to putt around it but the bunker was rebuilt over the winter and the catchment area has been increased.
Montgomerie extricated himself from the bunker at the first go but then missed the putt and took a double bogey six. A bogey at the 18th before playing the front nine in 35 meant a 74 and at three over par he is in danger of not qualifying for Sunday's final round.
* Heath Slocum and Bob Tway tied the course record with nine-under-par 61s to share the first-round lead at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. Sergio Garcia returned to the US with a two-under 68. The Spaniard easily attracted the largest gallery as fans flocked to watch his threesome.
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