Life can put golf in perspective at times and and that was certainly the case for Darren Clarke and Phil Mickelson in the 91st US PGA at Hazeltine National.

Clarke and his sons in happier timesBehind the golfers who missed fairways and greens, three putted and generally suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are two family men trying to do the best they can.

Clarke “celebrated” his 41st birthday yesterday in the saddest way you could imagine, adding a four over par 76 to his opening 78 to miss the cut by some distance on 10 over.

With both his wife and mother recovering from breast cancer surgery, Mickelson had to dig deep to card a second successive 74, which was just about good enough to make the halfway cut on the four over par limit.

While Clarke was asked whether he had received any birthday presents, his 41st was not the salient date on his calendar this week but the third anniversary of his wife Heather’s passing.

Could he take positives from the fact that he missed the cut in the US PGA at Oakland Hills last year and went on to win the KLM Open in Holland two weeks later?

“We’ll see,” he said. “This was a tough week for me in a few different ways. I just played poorly and I have got no complaints.

“My kids called me this morning but there were no presents. I am too old for presents. But I will be alright. I have just had a bad two days.

“I am hitting it fine but I haven’t put the scores on the board. At the end of the day you can’t contend or win tournaments unless you are shooting the scores. It doesn’t matter how well you are hitting it.

“No, it wasn’t the birthday present I was looking for at all. It is just the same old story for me at the moment, I am playing all my good golf on Tuesday and Wednesday and then played as poorly as possible the last two days.”

Starting on the 10th hole, Clarke began with a bogey five, double bogeyed the 501-yard par four 12th and then bogeyed the 203-yard 13th to slip to 10 over par.

He birdied the 14th and 16th but bogeyed the 17th and 18th to turn in 40 and came home in level par with a birdie at the easy, par-five seventh erased by a bogey at the ninth.

Considering he finished 22nd in the Bridgestone Invitational last week, it was particularly frustrating for the Ulsterman that his game deserted him in his 50th major championship appearance.

“I am just not getting any momentum,” he said. “Yesterday I had my chances and I just kept on missing and missing and missing. Basically I have made too many mistakes. I think I have made seven bogeys in two rounds when going into the green from the fairway with a short iron in my hands. You just can’t do that. It is just not good enough.

“I just can’t hit the ball the same as I am doing on the range and then take it out on the course.

“I am incredible frustrated with it and disappointed with it too. I just can’t get the ball in the hole and it is a vicious circle.”

It was no consolation to Clarke that one of his playing partners, the club professional Ryan Benzel, five-putted the 17th as he added an 83 to his opening 81.

Allowing himself a grin, Clarke said: “It was the original: ‘I’ll finish, I’ll finish, I’ll finish, I’ll mark. That’s what it was.”

Like Clarke, Mickelson has been having a torrid time off the course with his wife Amy and mother Mary recovering from breast cancer surgery.

And like the Dungannon man, the left-hander has been struggling to find the fairways and hole putts over the past two weeks.

The world No 2 changed his putting style after the US Open and it hasn’t worked on the evidence of his performance in Chaska, where he shot a pair of uninspired 74s to scrape in for the weekend on four over.

Six over with three holes to play, Mickelson gave a glimpse of his brilliance when he eagled the seventh to get back to four over.

The American spent more than an hour on the putting green on Thursday night but his ailing stroke is killing the rest of his game.

“I'm not going to beat many people putting the way I am,” he said. “I think the struggling on the greens is carrying over a little bit into maybe my focus on some other shots. But I don't feel I'm hitting it bad. But I am hitting some bad shots. I don't feel like I'm striking it horrendously. It's just I'm having trouble scoring right now.”