Compiled by PHILIP REID
Every cloud . . . : Clarke says injury 'blessing in disguise'
The groin strain that British Open champion Darren Clarke picked up at the end of March might have ruined his US Masters, forced him to miss the US Open but, on reflection, has – in his own words – proven “to be a blessing in disguise”.
Clarke, who hadn’t played competitively for over a month, made his first cut of the season here at the Irish Open and afterwards opened up about how fulfilling his role as holder of the Claret Jug had taken its toll on him.
“My actual golf hasn’t been that bad, my scoring has been terrible because I’ve been tired. I’ve gone around the world non-stop and I’ve been tired. I’ve had a wonderful break , not by choice. I feel refreshed and ready to go.
“I’ve had one of the best years of my life off the golf course and a bit of a struggle on it.
“But that’s golf. Whether it’s to do with being Open champion or not, or whatever, I’ve had a tough time scoring and concentrating and I’ve tried to fulfil my role as Open champion as best I can, which I have done in quite a few places around the world.”
Clarke – who got married in the Caribbean to Alison Campbell, a former Miss Northern Ireland, after the Masters – has benefited from spending time at home in Portrush since sustaining the injury.
“I needed to get away . I needed to have a little bit of a break. I’ve spent very little time here since last July. I’ve been away on the road all the time and I just wore myself down and got tired and consequently made silly mistakes and taking too many shots.
“So, my injury has been a blessing in disguise.”
Lowry: About to let loose
As the last Irishman to win the Irish Open, Shane Lowry – champion as an amateur back in 2009 but still seeking his first tour win as a pro – was especially pleased to survive the cut on two fronts: one, it kept alive his dream of a repeat win; and, two, it ended a miserable run of missed cuts on tour.
Lowry, who had missed his last three cuts, bounced back with a 68 yesterday for 140 and promised to “let loose” for the weekend.
He explained: “I seem to play more freely on the weekends. The tight tee shots don’t worry me that much. The tight flags, I tend to go at them. That’s how I play golf. That’s why I make so many bogeys, that’s why I make so many birdies as well. I just have to go out there and commit to everything and see what happens.”
€25,000: For 1,000th birdie
A significant landmark arrived just before 2pm yesterday, when the Irish Open featured its 1,000th birdie . . . which was further good news for former world featherweight boxing champion Barry McGuigan, patron of CLIC Sargent, the chosen charity of the tournament.
The Tour Players’ Foundation and the Darren Clarke Foundation each promised to contribute £10 for each birdie during the tournament, and the 1,000th birdie brought the amount raised – with still two days to go – to £20,000 (€25,000).
Final say: Gagli lauds Euro heroes and aims for double
Lorenzo Gagli is hoping a breakthrough win on the European Tour would pave the way for an Italian double over the weekend, and has already sent a text message to his friend Riccardo Montolivo congratulating the team on reaching the Euro 2012 final.
Gagli watched the Italy-Germany match on Thursday night in his apartment overlooking the course where he had compatriots Francesco Molinari, Andrea Pavan and Federico Colombo for company.
“It was a noisy room,” he quipped. “I’m surprised we got to the final, but we are good, yes?
“We are a great team with a lot of great players like Buffon, Pirlo. I think Prandelli has done great work because he made the squad half old and half young, it’s a nice combination,” said Gagli, who was first introduced to links fare when he played on a continental Europe team as a teenager in the Jacques Leglise Trophy at Lahinch.
As for his own quest to complete the first leg of an Italian double, Gagli said: “You never know. It’s not easy to win a European Tour event but I hope I can do my best. I would love to win.”
Tweet of the
day; Faldo forecast
“Maybe play Irish Open next year, part of my Open preparation? . . . but can @European_Tour arrange sunshine tee times pls #fairweathergolfer!” @NickFaldo006