Donaldson leads at windy Portrush as luck abandons Clarke

Welshman Jamie Donaldson, without a European Tour win in 244 starts, led the Irish Open midway through his third round at wet and windy Royal Portrush.

Welshman Jamie Donaldson, without a European Tour win in 244 starts, led the Irish Open midway through his third round at wet and windy Royal Portrush.

Despite the miserable conditions the 36-year-old was in inspired form on the greens, grabbing an eagle and three birdies on the front nine.

There were also two bogeys on his card, but at 12 under par Donaldson was two in front of English pair Anthony Wall and Paul Waring, making his first appearance for over a year following wrist surgery and nerve problems.

Overnight leader Gregory Bourdy had three bogeys in his first six holes and leading Irish hope Padraig Harrington two in seven, but both were still well in touch at nine and eight under respectively.

Already finished their third rounds, World Number two Rory McIlroy is on six under, former US Open champion Graeme McDowell is on four under and Open champion Darren Clarke is on three under.

Continuing with Irish scores, Paul McGinley is on two under, Mark Murphy and Simon Thornton are both on one under, while 2009 Irish Open champion Shane Lowry and Damien McGrane are both on level par.

Finally, Mark O'Sullivan finished on two over.

Luck was certainly not with Darren Clarke after he threatened to move into contention today.

After a birdie-eagle start to his third round in an Irish Open that means so much to him – Northern Ireland has not hosted it since 1953 – the Open champion ran up a double bogey seven on the long 17th during the worst of the wind and rain.

“We couldn’t reach the fairway – it was a 250-yard carry and we were only hitting it 235,” said Clarke, giving a wry smile as conditions eased the moment he finished with a 73 for three under.

After finding the left rough his eight-iron second went only 80 yards, his third found a bunker short of the green and then he three-putted.

“That’s Royal Portrush. That’s links golf. It’s much easier now,” he added.

“My goal was maybe to finish eight under and I had chances to do it. It was the conditions I wanted and I didn’t captialise.”

At least the 43-year-old was getting more competitive golf under his belt.

He had not made a cut all year until this week and was returning after a month’s absence resting a groin strain.

Clarke also has next week’s French Open in Paris before his defence of The Open a fortnight later.

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