Clarke left fearing for his putting as Poulter takes title

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The Independent Online

Darren Clarke left here yesterday in his private jet, determined to see his putting take off in the Ryder Cup later this week. The Ulsterman, who was making his first competitive appearance since his wife died last month, blamed his putting after closing with a level-par round of 72 in the Madrid Open.

The 38-year-old had four birdies and four bogeys in his final round to finish tied for 31st at La Moraleja II on seven-under-par, 15 shots behind the winner Ian Poulter. Like his Ryder Cup team-mates Padraig Harrington and Jose-Maria Olazabal, who finished fourth and eighth respectively, Clarke has work to do on his game.

Frustrated with his putting again, Clarke said: "All this week I've taken as many as I possibly could. It has been a very frustrating week. I played all right and I am very pleased with the way I am hitting it. But as I said, I have just taken as many as I could all week, unfortunately."

Harrington topped the putting statistics after carding a final-round 69 that left him alone in fourth place on 15-under. Olazabal, who closed with a five-under-par 67 to share eighth place on 10-under, hopes to team up with his coach, Butch Harmon, at the K Club to work on his driving ahead of his first Ryder Cup appearance since 1999.

* Sweden's Sophie Gustafson just held off a charging Laura Davies to claim her 12th title on the Ladies European Tour in the Siemens Austrian Open at Fohrenwald-Wiener. Davies had started the final round six shots behind her Solheim Cup colleague but came close to snatching victory with five birdies in the final seven holes.