Darren Clarke put himself on the leaderboard at the KLM Open in Holland today - just as he felt he needed to do to be in with a chance of a Ryder Cup wild card.
A member of the last five European sides and an inspirational winner of all his three games two years ago just six weeks after the death of his wife, Clarke was on four-under-par after 15 holes of his first round.
That put Clarke, 40 last week, in second spot only two behind Dutchman Rolf Muntz, no longer the holder of a European Tour card.
Clarke is 25th on the cup table and with the top 10 earning automatic places in Nick Faldo’s team after next week’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles he already requires another wild card.
“I’ve got to play well,” he said on the eve of the Kennemer event. “I’m desperate to make it – I’d love to – but if I don’t play well these two weeks I’d have no complaints if I don’t get picked.”
Clarke almost eagled the long 12th, his third, bogeyed the 473-yard 16th after pulling his drive, but then birdied the 17th, second, third and 363-yard sixth - the last of them just as a rainstorm and fierce winds arrived.
Cup-chasing Nick Dougherty, his playing partner, had to try to fight back from losing a ball with only his second shot, but was down on one-over with three to go.
A second place finish in last week’s SAS Masters in Stockholm had brought Dougherty back into the race for places, but at 14th he still needed another high finish.
However, his approach to the 447-yard 10th, his opening hole, came up short left in a patch of gorse and heavy rough and could not be found in the permitted five minutes.
A double bogey six instantly went on his card, he birdied the 12th, 14th and third, but then bogeyed the next two.
Justin Rose and Oliver Wilson, eighth and ninth on the points table, were paired together and both stood two-under after 14.
Wilson was the first to strike with a 25-footer on the 10th and twos on the 15th and 17th enabled him to turn in a three-under 31.
Another birdie came on the long second, but there were also bogeys at the first and fifth.
Rose, who had to ditch plans to play in America this week because his cup debut was not yet in the bag, made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 11th, but had to wait 11 more holes for his second birdie.
Dane Soren Hansen and German Martin Kaymer, separated by only £213 in 10th and 11th spots, were both among the afternoon starters.
Former British amateur champion Muntz turned in a two-under 34 and then started for home with three successive birdies before adding another on the 16th to lead Clarke by two.