Darren Clarke kept alive the dream of his first Major Championship victory as darkness fell at Augusta National, the Irishman lying second on four under par, two shots behind Canadian Mike Weir midway through round two of the rain-interrupted 67th Masters Tournament.
With the torrential downpours having washed out play completely on day one, the field attempted to play 36 holes on day two and although 16 players managed the feat and all the field made it through the turn, the majority, including most of the leaders, will have to return on Saturday morning to complete round two before commencing round three later in the day.
In the morning’s first round, Clarke was in superb form, a six under par 66 not only representing his best ever score at Augusta National, it also gave him a three shot lead at the head of the field.
But the Ryder Cup player could not quite keep up the momentum in the second round and the afternoon proved more erratic in the scoring department for the 34 year old Ulsterman.
Three birdies and three bogeys in his first eight holes saw him remain in the lead at six under par, but he missed the green at the ninth to shed another shot and, just as darkness fell and the klaxons sounded, he repeated the mistake at the tenth to hand pole position to Weir.
The left-hander from Ontario carded a 70 in the first round but steadily improved and he ended his day in positive fashion, birdies at the second and third holes, after having started at the tenth, seeing him move to six under par with six to play.
The magnitude of Clarke’s performance was illustrated by the fact that, when play ceased, only four players stood under par, third placed Phil Mickelson at two under through 11 and American amateur champion Ricky Barnes at one under through ten.
Next best placed European Tour Members were the 2000 Masters Tournament champion Vijay Singh and the 1999 Open Golf champion Paul Lawrie, both of whom were level par for 11 and 13 holes of their second rounds respectively.
One shot behind on one over par stood a group of 14 players including three European Tour Members, the three time champion Nick Faldo, double champion José Maria Olazábal, and debutant Justin Rose.
Defending champion Tiger Woods, looking to become the first man in history to win the Green Jacket on three consecutive occasions, looked to be out of sorts when he was outplayed in the first round by playing partner Ricky Barnes, the World Number One stumbling to a 76.
But the 27 year old American showed his fighting spirit in the second round to pick up two shots in ten holes before darkness fell to move to only two over par for the tournament and, ominously, onto the lower fringes of the leaderboard.