Clarke rockets up leaderboard

 

Ireland's Darren Clarke, the only player to score 60 in Europe twice, now has two rounds of 63 to his name on the US Tour.

Clarke’s brilliant performance in the third round of the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando lifted him all the way from 39th into a tie for second. Alongside him after a 67 is England’s Greg Owen.

Australian Rod Pampling took a four-stroke lead into the final day, however, following a 67 of his own.

Not that that troubled Clarke at all. He was content with putting in such a display after more than a year in which golf has taken a back seat to his wife Heather’s fight with cancer.

"She’s having a pretty tough battle at the minute," said Clarke. "She had a couple of weeks of very intensive treatment two weeks ago for another situation, but she’s battling hard.

"As you can probably see from my results, it’s affecting me quite a bit. It’s bound to.

"Things happen that you’ve got to re-assess, take a step back and take a look at them. It’s a pretty tough thing that we’re having to deal with at the moment.

"Golf is not really at the top of my list, it’s nowhere near the top of my priorities, but still at the same time I’m not just going out to make up a number, I want to try and compete."

And that he did with two opening birdies, then six in a row from the ninth (the last of them almost a hole-in-one) and finally a two-putt birdie on the long 16th.

Taking a great interest in whether he and Owen can catch Pampling will be Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam.

Clarke is currently 13th in the world points list from which five of the side will be picked, but a third US Tour victory would put him into that top five.

"The Irish are going to be very welcoming to everybody that’s there, so we’ll be pleased when we see the people that made an effort to travel to Ireland. I think it’s going to be a fantastic event.

"Of course I want to be a part of it. But I don’t know if I’m going to play next week, I don’t know if I’m going to play the week after. It’s too far ahead for me to have any idea what’s going on.

"So hence there’s no point. I don’t look at the Ryder Cup points list. "If I qualify, then great. If not, then the fact that I haven’t qualified, I wouldn’t want to put myself in that position anyway to be part of the team because you don’t want to be there if you’re not on top of your game.

"If I was close to making the team, that would be a different scenario, but if I was far off from making the team, the last place I would want to be is standing on the first tee under that amount of pressure and not quite knowing where it’s going.

"I’d rather have a few pints of Guinness and watch it on TV."

PA