Who is Ireland’s best bet for the Open? If Padraig Harrrington can regain some confidence in his green-reading in the Scottish Open next week, it could be the Dubliner.
Who knows, it could even be Shane Lowry if he converts a good start in the Alstom Open de France - he’s tied eighth and just four behind leader Marcel Siem on two under after a pair of 70s - into a top five finish that could earn him his place at Royal Lytham and St Annes in a fortnight.
Then there’s the obvious candidate in Graeme McDowell, whose ability to plot his way around a tight links course coupled with his strong start in Paris (tied 14th on one under after rounds of 73 and 69), makes him an ideal choice to add to his major haul.
But what of Darren Clarke, who missed the three over par cut by a stroke after following a quadruple bogey eight at this 16th hole with a bogey at the next to turn a good round into a very costly 76.
Having made his first cut of the season in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush last week, Clarke looked close to his best despite holing virtually nothing on the greens.
In Paris he appeared to have taken his game forward yet another step when he stood on the seventh tee (his 16th) at one under for the tournament and tied for 20th.
Just over 10 minutes later the 43-year-old Ulsterman, playing his last tournament before he defends the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham in a fortnight, was writing an eight on his card, followed quickly by a fatal bogey four at the next.
In gorse with his second, he was forced to take a penalty drop, knocked his fourth into a bunker, came out short of the green and took three more from there.
He wasn’t best pleased but still had enough good humour to tweet about it afterwards.
“What a finish!! Hardly missed a shot all day and then disaster struck with a quadruple. #practiceharder”
He even had the cheek to have a go at Wimbledon finalist Andy Murray.
“Well done to Andy Murray! But it would be nice if he could smile just the occasional time!”
In darker times Clarke would have been incapable of speech, let alone tweets. Perhaps he can let go sufficiently of his frustrations to produce another “mindless” performance at Royal Lytham, where he was 11th behind Tom Lehman in 1996 and third behind David Duval in 2001.
As for the French Open, Siem will take a slender one shot lead into the third round following a late surge by Alexander Noren.
The German shot a second successive 68, interrupted by an 80 minute lightning delay, to lead on six under before Noren birdied at the 14th, 15th and 16th to reach five under before finding water at the last to drop back into second and one clear of Denmark’s Anders Hansen and South African George Coetzee.
Lowry regained some confidence in Portrush last week and if he wins or finishes as the leading no-exempt player in the top five on Sunday, he’ll earn his place alongside Clarke, Harrington, McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Michael Hoey in the Open.
Two birdies in his last three holes in a homeward 32 allowed Lowry to forget about the cut line for the second week running and look forward to make a run at the weekend.
McDowell got to two under for the tournament with nine holes to play but dropped a shot coming home to slip five off the pace while Peter Lawrie made the cut on the mark after a 72.
The rest of the Irish missed the cut with Clarke joined on four over by Michael Hoey, who had four birdies against a costly triple bogey seven at the 13th in a fine 70.
Gareth Maybin missed by three after adding a 72 to his opening 76 while Damien McGrane finished well down the field on 12 over after a 79 featuring two double bogeys in his last three holes. By that stage his fate had already been decided.
World No 3 Lee Westwood made it with two shots to spare but not before suffering a scare.
The Englishman was three under for the championship with seven holes to play but dropped five shots in the next four holes before a birdie two at the 16th and two pars saw him post a 73 that left him just seven behind and confident of getting back into the mix with a low round today.