Friday, 19 March 2010
Darren Clarke repeated his opening round of 67 in the Volvo PGA Championship to take a one stroke lead at the halfway stage of the storm-delayed event at Wentworth Club.

The Ulsterman, who leads on a 10 under par total of 134, one ahead of two-time US Open champion, Ernie Els, produced a bogey-free 67 to sweep to the head of a top class leaderboard.

However Clarke, defending champion Colin Montgomerie and first round leader Bernhard Langer, were forced to sit for two hours in the clubhouse before playing the final hole after a fierce electrical storm crackled over the West Course.

After the suspension, Clarke returned to find that the tee peg used to mark his ball in the semi-rough had disappeared along with Montgomerie’s tee.

He dropped his ball in the rough but hit a superb five wood to the edge of the green and two putted to replicate his five under par score from the previous day.

“It was a long day but I played solid. I can’t complain about a 67” said Clarke, adding: “I had a really good lie where I marked the ball at the 18th but when the referee told me I would have to drop as opposed to placing it, I thought it could all go pear-shaped.”

Instead, Clarke drilled his ball unerringly towards the green and walked off as the outright leader ahead of new dad, Ernie Els, for whom first-time parenthood seemed very agreeable.

Clarke joked: “I don’t remember the last time I played with Ernie. It’s a while ago. I just hope his baby wakes up three or four times during the night.”

Even that scenario is unlikely to disrupt Els’ serene progress. So excited is the normally laid back South African that he insisted he could shoot 80 in the third round and still be unable to wipe the grin from his face.

After shooting a round of 67 for a total of 135, Els admitted he had to remind himself why he was at the course. He said: “I told myself – hey, play some golf today and stop walking around in the clouds.”

Another South African, Retief Goosen, moved menacingly into third spot on 136 to offer evidence to support Els’ theory that his long-time friend is close to winning a major championship.

Goosen’s 69 featured four birdies in the last 11 holes. After breaking his left arm in a skiing accident in January, he is now fully fit and seeking to consolidate his position at the head of the Volvo Order of Merit.

The man he aims to usurp as No.1 in Europe, Montgomerie, did his best to stay in the hunt. Three under par before the rain delay, the defending champion returned to smash a five iron 198 yards to six feet for an eagle which made dinner taste considerably sweeter.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1JAMES, MarkENG18-13
2ROMERO, EduardoARG18-7
3ROE, MarkENG18-6
4ROCCA, CostantinoITA18-5
5OLDCORN, AndrewSCO18-2
6LUNA, SantiagoESP18-1
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