Clarke survives gale

By Brian Keogh

Darren Clarke survived gale force conditions to lead the Irish challenge in the South African Airways Open.

The Ulsterman opened with a level par 72 to trail leader Robert Rock by two shots on a day when just four players broke par at the Pearl Valley Golf Estate.

Happy with his return to form, Clarke said: "As I said earlier this week, I am playing really nice and I did the same again today.

"I played really good all day, but threw away a couple coming home just like I did last week. But overall I am playing really nicely.

"The course is really tough, especially in the wind this morning. It could die down some time this afternoon and then some players could make a move, but then again it could blow. Time will tell."

Rory McIlroy failed to cope with the wind as he he had had three birdies, 10 bogeys and two double bogeys in an 11 over par 83.

But he was in good company as US Open champion Angel Cabrera crashed to an 80 and Ernie Els a 77.

Peter Lawrie shot a 74 and Colm Moriarty an 81.