Clarke continues resurrection in Oman; O'Briain shining on Sunshine Tour
Neil O'Briain following his win in the PGA Ulster Championship in 2016

Neil O'Briain following his win in the PGA Ulster Championship in 2016

Injuries and the ravages of time are the golfer's mortal enemies but they didn't stop Darren Clarke or Neil O'Briain from excelling yesterday.

Heading for the PGA Tour Champions in August, Clarke (49) carded his lowest European Tour round since May 2015 — a flawless, five-under 67 — to move up to ninth behind France’s Matthieu Pavon at halfway in the NBO Oman Open.

The 2016 Ryder Cup captain is six strokes behind Pavan on five-under-par.

But considering he recently emerged from a long slump by making his first European Tour cut since the 2016 Open Championship in Malaysia two weeks ago, his five-birdie round was truly exceptional.

It was one of just four bogey-free rounds recorded at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat on a day when Gavin Moynihan frustratingly finished birdie-bogey to miss the level par cut by one stroke after a 74 - his fourth missed cut in a row.

There were no such problems for Pavon (25), who made eight birdies in 11 holes in a 65 to lead by two shots on 11-under par from England's Matthew Southgate just three weeks after he was disqualified for signing for a wrong score in the Dubai Desert Classic.

“It's a lot of good memories that helps me out here," said Pavon, who was third in 2015 at the venue that hosted the Challenge Tour’s season-ending event, wrapping up his European Tour card for the first time.

"When you play bad on some courses and you are going back the next year, you have some bad memories. Here is just the opposite. I just have so many good memories so I just try to surf on them." 

Oman scores

Team Ireland Golf grant recipient O'Briain (31) has plenty of bad memories of 2017 after a niggling hip injury and a broken rib allowed to make just five cuts from 14 starts.

He divides his time between assisting in the professional's shop at Old Conna and playing on Irish Region, the European Challenge Tour and the Sunshine Tour

But he put his injuries behind him in the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt in South Africa yesterday, carding a four-under 68 on the Outeniqua Course to share fifth place, just two strokes behind leader Anthony Michael in eight-under par.

“I pleased because I played nicely,” the Royal Dublin man said after making five birdies ahead of today's key third round on The Links with the top 60 and ties going on to play the final round on the Montagu Course.

"My only bogey was when I flagged a wedge to a pin cut tight to the front at the 10th and it spun back and I didn’t get up and down

"Obviously if I win it I will move into a different category on this tour because they wouldn't give me a medical. But after a stop-start year last year with three long breaks in there with my hip and the broken rib, it's just nice to be playing solidly, nothing insane."

Dimension Data Pro-Am scores