Monty rap for Clarke

By Brian Keogh

Darren Clarke took a rap over the knuckles from Colin Montgomerie for his criticism of Gleneagles as a Ryder Cup venue.

But the Ulsterman replied with a two under par 71 to continue his golfing comeback in the Johnnie Walker Championship.

Clarke made his fifth cut from six starts when he finished on two under par at the Jack Nicklaus designed Centenary Course - a venue he slammed earlier this week as an "unbelievable" choice for the 2014 Ryder Cup.

But Scot Montgomerie, who is tipped to skipper the 2014 side on his home patch and also chairs the tournament committee for this week's event, hit back at his Ryder Cup team mate.

One shot better than Clarke after a 74, Montgomerie snapped: "People are entitled to their opinion and that's his. But my opinion is different.

"It will be a fantastic venue. We have another seven years here and the course is getting better every year. As a venue and a resort there are very few better - the location and the hotel are world-class."

Montgomerie, 44, believes that Europe has been been successful in recent Ryder Cup matches because the players know the venues so well.

He explained: "I'm convinced we won at Valderrama because we knew the course so well, also at the Belfry and last year at the K Club.

"We already know this course well and we have another seven years here. I think the course is getting better each year. I feel the course would stand up to any Ryder Cup."

Clarke has no problem with Gleneagles itself, but confessed that with two better courses at the Scottish resort, the decision to choose the American-style Centenary Course was baffling.

The Dungannon man looked certain to get the better of the course yesterday when he cruised through the first 10 holes in three under par.

But he almost undid all his hard work when he missed a short par putt at the 11th and then three-putted the 15th to leave himself no room for error coming home.

A birdie at the par five 16th helped him make the cut with two shots to spare, but still left him seven strokes adrift of leaders Thomas Levet and Simon Wakefield

Levet hit a five under par 68 to join Englishman Wakefield (69) and take a one-stroke lead from overnight leader Marc Warren on nine under par.

Peter Lawrie made the cut on the mark despite a one over par 74, the same score as Damien McGrane who missed out by a shot when he failed to birdie the 18th.

Gary Murphy and David Higgins both shot 77 to miss out on four and five over par respectively, while Graeme McDowell finished with a triple bogey eight for a 75 that left him on six over.