Flawless Clarke sets pace

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The Independent Online

A flawless round of 67 from Darren Clarke gave him the outright lead in the 12-man field at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City yesterday. The Ulsterman's five-under-par total put him one ahead of American Jim Furyk, the only other player not to drop a shot on the opening day of the £2.3m event.

Clarke, whose 2005 season was significantly affected by the illness of his wife, Heather, found form on the greens with just 26 putts in his round, starting with a birdie at the par-four third. He picked up further shots at the 450-yard eighth and long ninth to turn in 33 before further back-to-back birdies at the 13th and 14th saw him edge ahead of Furyk for the outright lead.

The American played regulation golf to the turn but hit three birdies in five holes after the turn, finishing with a three at the 459-yard 18th.

Paul Casey still had reasons to be cheerful despite a poor start to his first round at the UBS Hong Kong Open. Just four days after claiming his fifth European Tour title at the China Open, Casey hit an opening 74, four over par, boosted by a closing hat-trick of birdies.

Casey dropped four shots in five holes to go to the turn in 42 before salvaging his round with the three late birdies. South Korea's Wook-Soon Kang leads on six under par.

* The 2009 Open will be played at Turnberry, 15 years after it last took place at the Scottish links course, the Royal and Ancient announced yesterday.