It took Darren Clarke just two holes to leap 29 places in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush today – despite the pouring rain.
The Open champion, determined to build on making his first halfway cut of the year, birdied the first and then eagled the 528-yard second.
That burst took him from four under par to seven under and from 39th to joint 10th as the bad weather once again failed to deter fans from packing his home links.
“I’m not here to make up the numbers,” Clarke stated after an opening 71 on his return from taking a month off to rest a groin strain.
Then after his second-round 69, he added: “The break was massive. I needed to get away and the injury was a bit of a blessing in disguise.
“I’ve tried to fulfil my role as Open champion and have been travelling all over the world, but now I feel refreshed.”
Clarke has only one more event – next week’s French Open – before his defence of The Open a fortnight later.
“I’m just not tournament sharp and it’s important to have more competitive rounds.”
On seven under he was five behind Gregory Bourdy, the French stablemate he had given advice to on Tuesday about how to play a course which is staging Northern Ireland’s first Irish Open since 1953.
Bourdy led by one from England’s Mark Foster and by two from Dubliner Padraig Harrington, the 2007 winner, Italian Lorenzo Gagli and Foster’s compatriot Paul Waring, playing his first event for over a year following wrist surgery.
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell both resumed five under.
Clarke remained seven under after six holes, while Scot Craig Lee and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen were going well too.
Lee started birdie-eagle-birdie, bogeyed the short sixth, but then birdied the next two to turn in 31 and Olesen was also eight under after six birdies in the first 14.
Ryder Cup-chasing Paul Lawrie was not having such a good time. After covering the front nine in 37 he started for home with three bogeys in four holes and on one over was next-to-last of those who had made the cut.
Lawrie was partnering another former Open champion in John Daly, who with five to play stood four under.