Darren Clarke moved through the field when the Spanish Open resumed in Seville this morning – but he still found himself further off the lead.
Clarke, who ended two-and-a-half years without a victory by capturing the Asian Open in China on Sunday, blamed mental tiredness for an opening 72 that left him seven behind Swede Martin Erlandsson.
Setting off again on the back nine, the Ryder Cup star looked far livelier as he chipped to five feet on the long 13th and then birdied the 428-yard next as well after a superb approach to within 18 inches of the flag.
That put him two under par, but former cup team-mate Ignacio Garrido was the new pacesetter, four birdies in his first five holes taking him to 10 under and three clear.
Garrido and Clarke both made their debuts for Europe at Valderrama in 1997, but while the Ulsterman has been part of every side since Garrido has yet to play again.
He did win the European Tour’s PGA Championship at Wentworth five years ago, but that was out of the blue and since then he has had only six top-10 finishes and stands 350th in the world.
Erlandsson was among the later starters, but Jordi Garcia, joint second with Garrido after his 66, remained six under after three more holes.
Playing with Clarke, American John Daly reeled off six pars in a row, but that was not what he was looking for. Having begun with a disappointing 75, the former Open champion, now 42 and without a top-10 finish for three years, probably required a 69 just to survive the cut.
Meanwhile, Daly’s former coach Butch Harmon denies he has apologised to the player for not getting the facts right about Daly’s drinking.
“That story is complete BS,” Harmon told Yahoo Sports in the United States. “John Daly called me last Thursday and said, ’Pro you killed me. I’ve lost all my contracts.’
“I said to him, ’John, I’m sorry you lost your contracts, but I haven’t done anything to you. You did it to yourself, and you continue to do it to yourself.’
“He asked if I would go on the record with a retraction and I said no. This is just another strange chapter in the John Daly saga. He takes no responsibility for anything.”