By Brian Keogh
Darren Clarke’s Irish Open hopes suffered a crushing reverse when he racked up a nightmare triple bogey eight on Adare Manor’s treacherous par-five 18th to fall six behind leader Bradley Dredge.
The Ryder Cup star was just two shots off the lead on six-under par and heading for a 69 after erasing two early bogeys with birdies at the seventh, 12th, 13th, 15th and 17th.
But he pushed his drive at the 18th and rather than chipping back to the fairway he tried to hook his lay-up out around some trees but plugged in a fairway trap and then thinned his 124 yard wedge over the grandstand behind the 18th green and out of bounds.
Forced to drop in the bunker, his ball plugged again and he had to splash out sideways with his fifth before taking three more to get down for an eight and a level par 72 that sent him tumbling to tied 17th with Padraig Harrington on three-under par
“It is very disappointing,” said a disconsolate Clarke. “I chose to play the 18th the way I did and I got it wrong. I just have to go out and take my chances tomorrow and see what comes, though six shots is a lot to make up.
“I didn’t play great on the front nine. But got myself back into the tournament. That’s what happens.”
Rory McIlroy and Gary Murphy are the best of the Irish in a share of ninth, five strokes behind Dredge on four under par after rounds of 70 and 68 after Paul McGinley slithered out of contention with a disappointing 73
After a round that featured three birdies and just one error at the 17th, McIlroy was reasonably happy with is 70 but felt he could have been several shots better with a little more luck on the greens.
“Overall I am still in there with a chance and I am pleased with the way I played, McIlroy said. “I have to stick to my plan of hitting fairways and greens and see what happens after that. I made a couple of good up and downs to keep myself in there. I was pretty disappointed to bogey the 17th but my shot to the last was pretty nice.
“I am giving myself a lot of chances and it is just a matter of taking advantage of them. I am not putting badly and I just have to hole my share tomorrow and give it a good run.”
Murphy is not counting himself out of the reckoning either, adding: “That’s the best I’ve played all week. It could probably have been a few better but I missed a couple of putts. If it stays the way it is, I am only a few behind and I have a chance.”
McGinley double bogeyed the first after bunkering his tee shot and then dumping his approach in the stream fronting the green but felt he had played well all day for little reward.
He said: “You can’t be giving away shots with double bogeys. I feel that the course really punished me but I am happy with how my game is progressing in general.”
Peter Lawrie had a level par 72 to share 42nd place on two over.