The Open 2013: Bunker hell no bother for Darren Clarke

 

Muirfield

So the major winner from Northern Ireland is sneakily placed behind the leaders to make a tilt at the Claret Jug. No, not that major winner. Or indeed the other one.

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell have been comprehensively outplayed by the senior member of that great Ulster triumvirate. Kudos, and no doubt a glass or two raised, to 44-year-old Darren Clarke, the 2011 Open Championship winner at Royal St George’s.

Clarke followed up a one-over-par first-round 72 with a second round of par 71 to take a score of one over into the third round. But it should have been so much better. There were five birdies and not a single bogey on his card as he teed off at the final hole. Sad then that the only blemish on his scorecard up to that point was not a single bogey but a quadruple bogey eight on the par-four sixth.

Clarke made a mess of his tee shot and almost hit his ball over one of Muirfield’s ancient stone walls that mark its perimeter. He had no option but to play safe with his approach but his ball landed in a greenside bunker. Clarke ended up thrashing away like a dad at the seaside digging a pit with a bucket and spade. Many weekend hackers watching him knew just how he was feeling. After his second swipe saw his ball pop out and trickle back in to the sand, instead of a temper tantrum, he simply chuckled and grinned. The sort of grin that said: “What a daft and maddening game this is.” Fair play and respect to Clarke. He may have muttered something rather more Anglo-Saxon under his breath but who wouldn’t under the circumstances? That quadruple bogey was all the more shocking as it came on the back of a hat-trick of birdies. Clarke had chances at the first and second holes, too.

That eight could have derailed his day. Even though he was striking the ball beautifully, Clarke still sometimes looks like a tightrope walker on the verge of a nervous breakdown, waiting for a firework to go bang. The fact that he stayed calm and dug deep said much about this welcome return to form. Clarke has been missing in  action since he won his Claret Jug two years ago. He had not made a cut since the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May and has plummeted to a world ranking of 437. But it has not been through lack of effort. He said he has been practising too hard and getting in his own way. What keeps him going? “The love/hate of the game. There’s more love, but it’s hiding somewhere. Such is golf. At the end of the day, my name is still on the jug.”

Clarke found some love with birdies at the ninth and 12th. Shame then that he dropped a shot at the 18th after pulling his tee shot into the elephant grass, where the wild things are. When his par putt ran out of gas short of the hole, Clarke turned away in frustration. He leant on his putter and let his shoulders sag as he stared off into the middle of nowhere in particular. He then flashed another ironic smile. Daft game.

After bogeying the 18th in the first round, Clarke disappeared in a huff. This time he stopped for a post-mortem, which in itself illustrated how pleased he was with his performance. He talked through his quadruple bogey with good humour. “I missed my tee shot at the sixth and did the right thing and laid it up. Pulled my wedge three yards and I was plugged against the lip of the bunker and couldn’t get it out. Left it in there. And tried to be smart with the next go. And left it in there. And then I was sensible with my third go. I was running out of fingers counting how many I was taking,” he said with a grin.

Clarke has hit 27 out of 36 greens for a 75 per cent success rate, a remarkable display of ball striking considering the greens are like glass tables. The average for the field is just over 60 per cent. “I hit the ball lovely all day and gave myself lots of chances everywhere,” he said. “Overall, I’d like to be a few shots better but it’s not bad.”

Clarke played down any suggestion that he was starting to feel the good vibes again like he did at Royal St George’s but there was a quiet confidence in his voice when asked if he could win. “There’s a long way to go. I’m not quite playing the way I’d like but I’m doing all right,” he said. And with that he was off to range. To work on what? “Going to practise how to hit out of a plugged lie against the lip of a bunker.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own