Distracted Clarke looks to Ulstermen for Masters glory
 Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

Darren Clark believes Ulster duo Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell can come up with the answer to the $64,000 question and finally end Ireland’s long wait for a Masters champion.

But the struggling Ulsterman all but admitted that his own chances of winning a green jacket at the 12th attempt are remote given his horrific form on the greens.

“The putting is driving me to distraction,” Clarke confessed before exhaling on a cigarette. “If I was yipping them or doing something like that, I’d go to the long putter but I’m not. My green reading has been very, very poor. 

“If the putt breaks right to left I might read it the other way. Not obvious ones, of course, but I don’t know what’s going on.

“Because my reading hasn’t been good, consequently, my speed has been off and because of the speed of the greens here, if you’re off even slightly with the pace of your putts you’re not going to hole anything.

“It’s very tough but I’ve just got to get on with it. The ball can’t keep on missing forever.”

It’s been 11 years since Clarke became the first Irishman to lead the Masters — he opened with a 66 in 2003 — but this year he's looking at fellow Ulstermen McIlroy and McDowell as two men who can contend.

“The thing about being a Major Champion is that you know that when you’ve got yourself in the position, you followed it through. If you’ve done it before you can do it again.

“It’s not really set up for anybody in one particular way so there are a few contenders. I think Rory has been hitting it really well again and he is looking very fit and very strong. And I think G-Mac is looking very strong at the moment. 

“Those two from the home perspective have been playing really, really well so I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of them were up there come Sunday afternoon."

Harris English is another player who impresses Clarke but he's also got a fancy for Matt Kuchar.

“Then take the likes of Matt Kuchar, who some would say is overdue a Major win. You may say he’d be more suited to a US Open golf course but with his short game as good as it is, it should suit him around here.”