Clarke's joy a big blow to his rivals

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The Independent Online

Darren Clarke was happy to find the wind blowing across the western corner of Andalucia when he awoke yesterday and even happier when he completed his second round of the Volvo Masters before play had to be suspended at Montecastillo. What had been a healthy challenge for most of the day, one to which Clarke, with a 68, and Mathias Gronberg, with a 67, both rose superbly, suddenly became unplayable when gusts of up to 45mph preceded the expected storm.

There is a heavy Irish presence on the leaderboard, with Paul McGinley at the summit on nine under par. Out in the penultimate pairing of the day, McGinley said conditions deteriorated markedly after he had pitched in for a birdie on the ninth to be out in 33.

"It was definitely the right decision to take the players off the course," McGinley said. "Some of the greens are really exposed and balls were moving on the greens. At the 11th my first putt was blown six feet off line and it cost me a bogey." Given the circumstances, McGinley's birdie at the 12th hole, where he made a putt from 12 feet, was a particularly fine effort. He will resume this morning, along with a third of the field, with six holes to play and a two-stroke lead over Gronberg. Clarke had finished a further stroke behind at six under, alongside Padraig Harrington, McGinley's World Cup partner in Japan next week, and the Australian Peter Lonard, who have six and seven holes to complete respectively.

Montecastillo was far from the benign friend it had been on Thursday and some of those on the leaderboard after the first round suffered. Adam Scott had a triple bogey six at the eighth hole to be three over for the round through 12 holes and Ian Poulter, the overnight leader, was four over for his 11 holes.

Neither was there good news for Poulter's elder brother, Danny, who missed out on a place at he European Tour School Finals by one stroke at the pre-qualifying in Gerona.

Clarke thought his putter had deserted him after he gave the stroke he had picked up at the first back at the next hole. "I just hung in there and tried to give myself some chances and a few started to drop," said Clarke, looking to secure second place on the Order of Merit behind Retief Goosen.

"I enjoy these conditions. I certainly hit a lot of drivers off the back of my stance to keep it under the wind and on the fairway. You've got to use a lot of imagination in conditions like these and this course plays much tougher when it's like this." Gronberg knew, however, that it was still possible to score on this course despite the wind since he had played alongside Clarke when the Ulsterman shot a 63 to win in 1998 in breezy conditions. The Swede took his chances where they came in eagling the two par-fives on the front nine for a five-under score that was only matched by his compatriot Niclas Fasth.

Off the course, a lengthy meeting between Tour executives and representatives of Alastair Forsyth confirmed the Scot will have to go to next week's Tour School after he finished 116th on the Order of Merit. Only the top-115 retain their cards for next year but Ian Doyle, Forsyth's manager, maintains Sergio Garcia should not be allowed to count the AmEx World Championship, which was cancelled due to the September 11 atrocities, in his minimum of 11 events and should be thrown off the money list. Doyle will appeal the decision at the end-of-year Tournament Committee meeting.

Meanwhile, more revelations from Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, who was two over par. "I have the same cold last year," he said. "I don't blame the cold. You stand there, you want but you can't."