Hapless Clarke slips to new low

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The Independent Online

Darren Clarke completed his worst-ever season on the European Tour by missing yet another halfway cut. Clarke, already in 129th place on the Order of Merit, had a second-round 73 in the Portugal Masters at the Victoria Club here.

At one under the Ryder Cup star, a hero of last year's win over the Americans just six weeks after his wife Heather died from cancer, bowed out 13 strokes behind leader Martin Erlandsson.

The Swede, who had one hole of his round still to finish, was one ahead of South African Charl Schwartzel and Martin Kaymer, the 22-year-old German who led by three after his opening 61 and who was among yesterday's late starters.

Clarke's best finish this year has been 19th and after playing in Morocco and Singapore the next two weeks – neither European Tour events – he is planning a long winter lay-off.

"Maybe a couple of months not looking at them," said the 39-year-old, indicating his clubs. "I'm just not making anything or getting any momentum going. I'm not going to keep on moaning, though."

His previous lowest finish on the money list was 112th in his rookie season in 1991, but since then he has never been lower than last year's 43rd.

Young compatriot Rory McIlroy was in danger of missing the cut as well when he hooked into the lake on his second hole of the day and with a bogey fell back to level par. But the 18-year-old, third and fourth the last two weeks in his second and third professional events, fought back to four under with a 69 that was likely to be one inside the cut-off mark.

McIlroy is looking forward to a break as well and said: "I didn't want this to be my last week and not make the cut. I still struggled a bit, but found something in the swing. It would be nice now to have a good finish and then have a couple of weeks to reflect on all that's been going in."

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