Friday, 19 March 2010
Darren Clarke rekindled his hopes of a first major championship victory with an excellent 67 in the second round of the 65th Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

It moved the 32 year old Ulsterman from a share of 33rd place at the start of the day, back into contention for the Green Jacket at five under par 139 for the tournament, only two shots adrift of clubhouse leader Steve Stricker.

Clarke admitted disappointment at only carding level par 72 in the first round’s relatively easy scoring conditions but immediately set about making amends in his second round. In many ways it was simply a case of picking up where he left off the previous night.

The Irishman had claimed one of only nine birdies all day at the 18th for his 72 and when he rolled in a 20 footer at the first - a hole that saw exactly the same short supply of birdies in the first round - he was off and running.

After narrowly missing putts at the third and fourth, Clarke stepped up the pace again from the seventh with four birdies in five holes, including at the 485 yard par four tenth, statistically the hardest hole on the course, and thanks to a shot he described as one of the best of his career.

The Irishman slightly skied his three wood tee shot and needed a five wood for his second, made all the harder by the fact it was from a downhill lie.

But Clarke caught it beautifully and almost holed it, the ball hitting the flagstick and finishing three feet away.

"It was a career five wood," the 32 year old said afterwards. "Any time you shoot 67 at Augusta you've got to be pleased. I hit a lot of good shots and I am very happy with the way I am swinging it.

"My patience has been very good too. More learned people than me have said you have to be patient and that's what I've tried to do.

"I've hit it in the wrong place a few times and paid the penalty, but when you try to go looking for birdies that's when you end up making bogeys, double bogeys or worse."

The birdie run moved the 2000 WGC – Accenture Match Play champion to five under par for the tournament and although he dropped a shot at the short 16th, he showed resilience to pick it back up at the next before carding a par four at the 18th to finish.

Playing with Clarke was Miguel Angel Jiménez, but the Spaniard did not enjoy the same good fortune as his partner, having to content himself with a level par second round of 72 to give him a four under par halfway total of 140.

Clubhouse pacesetter Stricker finished with a 71 for a seven under par total of 137, but for long spells it looked like the man who succeeded Clarke as WGC – Accenture Match Play champion would have a more impressive second round card.

Birdies at the eighth, 12th and 13th moved the 34 year old American to nine under par for the tournament but he had to endure an untidy finish to his round, dropping shots at both the 16th and 18th holes.

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