Darren Clarke weathered an early storm to keep his Irish Open bid on track and insisted: “I’m not here to make up the numbers.”
The Open champion was two over after just eight holes when he bogeyed three in a row from the sixth.
But after a 95-minute weather delay for electrical activity, he came back out, kept his patience and roared back up the leaderboard to post a one under 71.
Determined to keep chasing birdies, Clarke said: “I was obviously disappointed about six, seven and eight. They are not the most difficult holes with that wind direction today and to throw three shots away was just stupid.
“You wouldn’t think I’d been a member here for 27 years the way I played them. I short sided myself a couple of times and made one bad swing but to get it back under par, even though I was hoping for better, was good.”
While he was pleased to come home in three under with birdies at the 10th, 12th and 16th, he felt he could have done even better.
Clarke said: “My score would suggest that the weather delay came at the right time because I went back out saying that I had to make some birdies and I did.
“But I am not here just to make up the numbers. I want to get in there and contend and I had a few other chances on the back nine.
“It could have been better quite easily but all in all, to get back under par after the delay, was a good effort.”
The Ulsterman felt the course played at his easiest given the wind direction and he’s hoping it shows its teeth over the next three days.
He said: “The prevailing wind is the other way, the greens are soft and the fairways are soft and Royal Portrush like any links is better when it plays firm and fast and balls are running into the bunkers and rough.”
Now a proud Portrush resident, Clarke bogeyed the first but birided the par-five second and the signature fifth before those three bogeys threatened to ruin his day.