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Friday, 19 March 2010
KLM Open - Round Three  (Getty Images)
KLM Open - Round Three (Getty Images)

A week after going back to Northern Ireland to mark his 40th birthday, Darren Clarke might have more reasons to celebrate on Sunday and next weekend.

Clarke takes a three stroke lead over Swede Henrik Stenson into Sunday's final round of the KLM Open in Holland - and his performance could easily earn him a Ryder Cup call-up from Nick Faldo next Sunday.

But while he smiled after a joint best-of-the-day 66 lifted him to 12 under par, he is aware more needs to be done.

Clarke said: "I came here to try to show Nick I have a bit of game and if I play well I have a great chance.

"I had lots of chances and hit a lot of really good shots - and a couple of poor ones, probably due to a lack of concentration.

"I'm playing with one of the great players in the world in Henrik again tomorrow, so it should be great. I knew I was playing OK and I've really enjoyed the course.

"I can still play better. This week has been good in that I have hit a lot of good shots and made a lot of chances and I think the stats will back that up. I am very happy with the way I am swinging the golf club right now."

Clarke had moved into a share of the halfway lead with a second round of 64 and more birdies on the fourth, sixth and seventh holes on Saturday swept him clear.

The inspiration of Europe's 2006 victory - Clarke claimed three wins out of three just six weeks after his wife Heather died of breast cancer - did bogey the difficult eighth and saw the gap closed from three to one, but he responded by picking up more strokes on the 12th and 13th.

Stenson, already certain of his Cup place after finishing third in The Open Championship and fourth at the US PGA Championship, had a 68, while England's John Bickerton came home in 29 for a 66 which put him third.

Bickerton believes the conditions could cause more players to slip up. On Saturday morning play was suspended for an hour because of lightning, but it’s the wind which Bickerton noticed. He said:  “It’s not easy out there – it’s never really downwind or into it, it is a cross wind almost all the way round. There are mistakes to be made out there – I made mine early on – but it’s nice to be able to make a few birdies and give yourself a bit of leeway.”

Scotland Marc Warren and New Zealander Michael Campbell were a further stroke back and the leaderboard no longer features the two men with whom Clarke shared the overnight lead.

Sweden's Alex Noren had double bogeys on the fourth and fifth, while England's Robert Rock had an even worse day. He also took six on the fifth, followed it with a quintuple bogey nine and fell outside the top 50.

Justin Rose was furious with himself after falling into the pack.

Eighth in the Ryder Cup points race, Rose came into the third round on four under par but three-putted from inside 15 feet on Kennemer's last green for a round of 71.

It left Rose down in 24th place on three under and the two players immediately below him on the Ryder Cup points table, Oliver Wilson and Soren Hansen, are five under and six under.

Rose will earn his first Ryder Cup cap unless three players go past him in the last two weeks and while Wilson and Hansen could easily do that tomorrow - they lie 12th and sixth in the tournament - German Martin Kaymer in 11th spot is down on two over after a 74 which contained three double bogeys and 13th-placed Ross Fisher, this week's defending champion, is one under.

It has helped Rose's cause too that his good friend Ian Poulter missed the cut in America at The Barclays on Friday.

 

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1CLARKE, DarrenNIR18-16
2MCGINLEY, PaulIRL18-12
3STENSON, HenrikSWE18-11
T4WARREN, MarcSCO18-9
T4SLATTERY, LeeENG18-9
T6HANSEN, SorenDEN18-8
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