Clarke makes a move at Sawgrass

Darren Clarke jumped 26 places in just two holes today with a flying start to his third round at the Players Championship in Florida.

Darren Clarke jumped 26 places in just two holes today with a flying start to his third round at the Players Championship in Florida.

After sinking an 11-foot birdie putt on the first the Ulsterman holed from similar range for eagle at the long second and so at four under par was up from 42nd to 16th, only four shots behind overnight leader Jim Furyk.

It was only last Saturday Clarke shot the lowest round of his US Tour career, a 63 which put him into contention for the Bay Hill Invitational, where he went on to finish third.

Even with a stiff wind he was not alone in making a big early move. American James Driscoll birdied five of the first six holes and at six under was in joint fourth spot.

Meanwhile, there was a bit of bad news for European golf’s man of the moment Greg Owen before he teed off again.

Joint seventh after rounds of 71 and 68, Owen had a twin target for the day - stay in the hunt not only for a first prize of about £875,000, but also for a place in the Masters in a fortnight’s time.

However, because nearly all the players just ahead of him in the world rankings had also survived the halfway cut it could take a top-13 finish tomorrow to get the Mansfield golfer to Augusta.

At the start of the week it had been worked out that top 20 might be good enough.

Owen would have been a certain starter in the first major of the year but for his blow-out at Bay Hill last Sunday.

All set to lead by two with one hole to play he three-putted from three feet on the 17th and then bogeyed the last to lose by one.

It meant a rise only to 53rd in the world and it is the top 50 who qualify for the Masters after this week’s event.

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