Darren Clarke confessed that he was impressed by an incredible comeback by playing partner Adam Scott in the opening round of the Australian PGA Championship in Queensland.
Paired with veteran Greg Norman, who shot a 72, a jet-lagged Clarke fired a three-under 69 as Scott bounced back from being five over after just eight holes to post a 70 at the Hyatt Regency Coolum on the Sunshine Coast.
After starting with a birdie at the 10th, Scott made a triple bogey at the par-three 11th, a double bogey at the 14 and bogeys at 13th and 16th to slither down the leaderboard.
But a birdie at the 18th helped him turn in 40 before he stormed home in 30 with birdies at the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth.
“He was shocking at the start and then he played fantastic,” Clarke said. “Great performance to come back and shoot two-under.”
South Korean Joon-woo Choi and Australia’s Steve Bowditch posted six-under 66’s to lead a shot from a quartet of player that included Aaron Baddeley and American Bubba Watson.
As for Clarke, the Open champion felt his long trip Down Under and his lack of local knowledge cost him dear in the opening round.
Four under through 10 holes after following birdies at the 14th, 15th and 17th with another birdie at the par-five opening hole, the 43-year old bogeyed the fourth and fifth but birdied the par-three sixth.
Tied for 15th with the likes of Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and YE Yang, Clarke said: “I made a couple of silly plays because I don’t know the course and that is where it cost me.
“It is a long way from home and I’m a little bit tired, the jetlag got me, but I’ll have a good rest and get ready for tomorrow.”
Clarke has not managed a top-30 finish in a regular tournament since he captured the Open at Royal St George’s in July.