Clarke blasts back with 65 in Joburg

By Brian Keogh

Darren Clarke blasted his lowest round for 19 months to scorch into contention for the Joburg Open in South Africa.

The Ulsterman, 39, dropped just one shot in a superb, six under par 65 to jump from 89th overnight to tied 14th on four under par.

Clarke gave TV pundit Ewen Murray and his hot putter the credit as he sliced eight strokes off his first round effort to equal the low round of the day.

He said: "I did some work on the range with Ewen and I hit the ball really well and putted a lot better.

"Today was really good, especially my putting. Yesterday I was very poor and needed 33 putts. Today I had 29.

"I didn't hole everything but I sank a lot more six and seven-footers than yesterday so the round was a lot better."

Clarke is just five strokes behind halfway pacesetter Mark Murless of South Africa (68), who eagled his final hole to lead by a shot on nine under par from Spain's Pablo Larrazabal.

Irish hopefuls Colm Moriarty (69), Stephen Browne (74), Gareth Maybin (74) and Michael Hoey (72) missed the level par cut.

But Clarke sparkled on another rain-drenched day as he bids to re-launch his career from 229th in the world rankings.

The five-time Ryder Cup star's 65 on the East Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington was his lowest score since the second round of the 2006 Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.

After a birdie at the 253 yard second, the Dungannon ace dropped his only stroke of the day at the third before picking up six birdies on the way home.

A two at the 177-yard fifth followed by another birdie at the par-five eighth helped him get back to level par for the tournament.

Back-to-back birdies at the 10th and 11th eased the pressure of missing the halfway cut and he rallied with birdies at the 15th and par-five 18th to move into contention for his first win since 2003.