Fortune did not favour the brave at The Belfry when defending champion Lee Westwood finally began his third round in the Quinn Insurance British Masters today.
After another long fog delay and a decision by the European Tour not to go for a shotgun start – both the promoter and BBC Television wanted that to get the leaders back in action as soon as possible – it was 4.05pm before Westwood teed off again.
It was nearly 24 hours since his last shot in the tournament and his first was an attempt to make the green on the driveable par-four 10th.
Only five of the first 36 players had pulled out a wood and tried for the 230-yard carry into a slight wind, but although Westwood had the length with his three wood he was left of the target and found the water.
He kept his thoughts to himself, but it would have been no surprise at that point if he had rather started on the first hole.
As Westwood bogeyed to fall to five under par, South African Charl Schwartzel, who was the first man to tee off on the inward half, sank a 25-foot putt on the 18th for an incredible seventh birdie in nine holes.
The 24-year-old from Johannesburg, already with two victories to his name on the circuit, turned in 29 and on seven under he led by one from Swede Alexander Noren, who started his day’s work by completing a second round of 66.
Half the field were unable to finish last night. Also among them was Darren Clarke, who on his return just failed in a brilliant attempt to make the halfway cut.
An opening 80 on Thursday had left Clarke down in joint 136th place in the 144-strong field, but he missed by one when a putt from the fringe of the final green trickled past the edge of the cup.
Seven over when play had been called off, Clarke set off again following a further two-and-three-quarter-hour delay on the 384-yard 13th.
And while playing partner Jeev Milkha Singh, joint overnight leader with Westwood, went out of bounds, Clarke birdied three of his next five holes.
The Northern Irishman, controversially left out of last week’s Ryder Cup by captain Nick Faldo despite his great record in the match and two wins this season, could not quite complete the recovery, but said after his 68: “Missing the cut is not what I wanted, but I didn’t want to go to Scotland next week on the back of another bad round.”
Before turning his thoughts to the Dunhill Links Championship, however, Clarke had another important occasion to get to – his son Conor’s eighth birthday party this afternoon.
Liverpool’s Nick Dougherty, so close to earning a Ryder Cup debut, had high hopes of moving into contention after his opening 70, but a nightmare finish to his second round sent him out of the tournament as well.
One under with three to play, Dougherty bogeyed the 16th and 17th, then crashed to a quadruple bogey eight on the last. He missed out by two as a result.