Clarke on the move

30/06/2012 11:27:03
Darren Clarke  (Getty Images)
Darren Clarke (Getty Images)
It took Darren Clarke just two holes to leap 29 places in The Irish Open at Royal Portrush - despite the pouring rain.

The Open Champion, determined to build on making his first halfway cut of the year, birdied the first and then eagled the 528 yard second.

That burst took him from four under par to seven under and from 39th to joint tenth as the bad weather once again failed to deter fans from packing his home links.

"I'm not here to make up the numbers," Clarke stated after an opening 71 on his return from taking a month off to rest a groin strain.

Then after his second round 69, he added: "The break was massive. I needed to get away and the injury was a bit of a blessing in disguise.

"I've tried to fulfil my role as Open Champion and have been travelling all over the world, but now I feel refreshed."

Clarke has only one more event - next week's Alstom Open de France - before his defence of The Open a fortnight later.

"I'm just not tournament sharp and it's important to have more competitive rounds."

On seven under he was five behind Grégory Bourdy, the French stablemate he had given advice to on Tuesday about how to play a course which is staging Northern Ireland's first Irish Open since 1953.

Bourdy led by one from England's Mark Foster and by two from Dubliner Padraig Harrington, the 2007 winner, Italian Lorenzo Gagli and Foster's compatriot Paul Waring, playing his first event for over a year following wrist surgery.

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell both resumed five under.

Clarke remained seven under after six holes, while Scot Craig Lee and Dane Thorbjørn Olesen were going well too.

Lee started birdie-eagle-birdie, bogeyed the short sixth, but then birdied the next two to turn in 31 and Olesen was also eight under after six birdies in the first 14.

Clarke bogeyed the seventh and with an outward 34 stood six under, but McIlroy's birdies at the second and third took him to seven under.

McDowell parred the opening six holes and, as conditions brightened, both Lee and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti moved to nine under and joint sixth place.