Clarke avoids Open disaster

From Brian Keogh at Carnoustie

Pink panther Darren Clarke produced a stunning comeback avoid first round ‘dazzaster’ at punishing Carnoustie.

The Ulsterman was dressed from head to toe in pink to promote breast cancer awareness following the death of his wife Heather last year.

And he was in the pink afterwards too as he hit back from four over after six to post a one over par 72.

Birdies at the seventh, 11th and 14th followed by a solid par at the 18th left him smiling afterwards.

He beamed: “It was pretty good. I got my back to the wall pretty early and made a few mistakes and paid the penalty but I just hung in there.

“I knew I was hitting it and swinging it okay and it was nice to battle back and shoot one over.”

Things looked black for Clarke when he bogeyed the first and double bogeyed the fifth after a poor chip came back to his feet.

He was ready to explode at the next when he blasted his drive out of bounds but made a birdie with his second ball to limit the damage to a bogey six.

Asked what he was thinking after going O.B, he said: “You couldn’t print it. I tried to force a driver. But I hit the next one down the fairway and knuckled down.

“I probably couldn’t have done it two months ago but as I’ve told you my game has moved on a little bit, my life has moved on a little bit and I’m comfortable playing again and I am quite pleased with myself that I managed to get it back.

“It’s not very nice standing on the sixth tee, three over par and hitting another ball after hitting my first one out of bounds so, you know, I was staring at double bogey there and to turn that around and make a birdie with my second ball and shoot 72 was pretty good.”

Clarke hopes he can go low today, get back in the mix and get even more publicity for breast cancer charities.

Explaining his all-pink outfit,he said: “It was to do with breast cancer. I’m trying to do a lot of work for breast cancer awareness at the moment and we’re trying to raise a lot of money to put scanners into a few different hospitals in London. You know, it was for Heather, for breast cancer and that is why I wore it.”

Playing partner Michael Campbell also wore pink as he hit a three under 68.

And Clarke joked: “I think he just didn’t switch the light on when he got dressed this morning.”