Clarke can be the next Miguel, insists Poulter
Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke might have crashed to a 77 at Augusta National but Ian Poulter reckons the Ryder Cup captain can still be a force right into his 50s.

The English Ryder Cup hero fired a super 67 alongside Clarke to move up to four under par and impress the man who will lead Europe’s bid for four Ryder Cup wins in a row next year.

"That’s the best I have ever seen him play,’ Clarke said. "It was a 67 that could have been a 63 standing on his head."

But Poulter was also impressed with Clarke, despite the fact that 46-year old Dungannon man is near the back of the field.

After watching Clarke make three birdies as well as eight bogeys, Poulter said: “Darren can still play a bit. If Miguel can be competitive until he’s a good age then Darren can too.”

Clarke came close to his first hole-in-one at Augusta when his seven iron at the 16th ran over the edge of the hole and finished less than a foot away. 

“I’ve only ever had a hole in one in he Par-3 Contest but today I didn;t play as well as the first twos days.

“If you get the wrong side of Augusta you pay a big penalty and that’s what happened today. That’s Augusta. You’ve got to hit the fairway.”

Driving was also a major problem for Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington.

McDowell missed the last two fairways and bogeyed both holes to card a 76 and slipped to tied 51st on five over.

As for Lowry and Harrington, both failed to make the halfway cut because they could not find enough of Augusta National’s pristine fairways.

It was difficult to decide which of the two was more devastated to miss out— Harrington, who was so delighted to get back here after failing to qualify last year, or Lowry, who was making his debut.

Harrington blamed bad luck and a cold putter as he went from two under with three holes to play on Thursday to five over on Friday evening.

But while it was true that he did not have a good week on the greens — he needed 14 more putts that Jordan Spieth — it was his waywardness off the tee that proved especially expensive. 

The Dubliner missed 15 of 28 fairways and that put him under undue pressure and made it even more difficult to keep bogeys off his card.

Lowry’s status as a Masters rookie was always going to be a disadvantage but it was more his lack of form with the driver that made his life tougher than it should have been.

The Clara man felt certain he was going to make the cut on three over par but ended up a frustrated man as he watched it go the other way as the wind dropped in the afternoon.

“When you think you are making it and then miss out, it is quite disappointing,” Lowry said. “But that’s golf.

“I though the cut might even go to four, never mind three but it almost ended up being one over.

"I would have loved to play two more rounds especially the way it was playing at the weekend to get a little more experience around the course.”