Clarke nine behind in Japan

Rusty Darren Clarke produced an amazing eagle finish but still trailed by nine shots at the halfway stage of the Visa Taiheiyo Masters.

Bidding for a hat-trick of wins in the Japanese Tour event, the Ryder Cup hero closed with a three the par five 18th to card a three under par 69.

Back in action after a five week break, the Dungannon man has it all to do catch Ryder Cup team mate Sergio Garcia and Japanese duo Katsumasa Miyamoto and Daisuke Maruyama at the top of the leaderboard.

Garcia, who is still looking for his first win of the season after top five finishes in the US PGA and the Open, added a 67 to his opening 68 to get to nine under par.

But that was only good enough to match Miyamoto and Maruyama, who scorched round in eight under par 64.

After an opening 75, Clarke soared to six over par with three bogeys in an outward half of 39.

But he birdied five of the next seven holes on the back nine before erasing a bogey at the 17th with that eagle finish to come home in 30.

Despite his struggles, Clarke was still enjoying his latest visit to the Land of the Rising Sun.

He said: "Japan never ceases to amaze me and they are very sharp on detail, for example, heated toilet seats and bathroom mirrors that won’t steam up.

"Even the golf is different in Japan because the Wednesday pro-am was not started by the customary shotgun but by a spectacular 20-second firework display.

"I was understandably rusty for the first round having played just eight strokeplay rounds since July, but things did not improve at the start of my second.

"Fortunately I finished with a back-nine 30 to ensure I would be playing all four rounds and not kicking my heels over the weekend.

"I’ll be trying my best over the weekend, but win or lose I’ll still have the pleasure of putting on the best greens I have been on all year."