Clarke rallies for even par as Pádraig on the brink

Darren Clarke and Pádraig Harrington are searching for some missing links in their games after struggling on day one at Royal Liverpool yesterday.

Clarke was unhappy with his iron play despite coming back from three over after seven holes to post a level par 72 alongside five-time Open champion Tom Watson and pal Jim Furyk.

But Harrington was even more disappointed as he three-putted three times for a two over 74 that leaves him facing a real battle to make the cut for the top 70 and ties today.

The Dubliner was hoping for a good finish as he approached the last three holes at just one over for the day. But he finished bogey-bogey-birdie and was left to rue a string of errors on the greens.

“It was very disappointing,” Harrington said after a round that was marred by a birdie miss from just four feet at the second. “That certainly didn’t help. I holed one putt outside two or three feet for the day. On perfect greens with no wind, it just can’t be done.

“I’d three three-putts and didn’t hole anything else, made myself very tentative and very defensive. Who knows, it could have been that putt on the second for sure.

“If you knock it in, you’re going forward but I didn’t. The only putt I did hole was a 10-footer on the fourth for birdie. I can’t blame two because at four I got under par but the three-putts [for bogey] at six and seven and the other from off the green on 16….”

Like Clarke, Harrington is hoping the wind blows today and he can battle his way back and play at the weekend.

“[Wind] certainly would have suited me more,” he said. “I hit the ball well enough that the wind wouldn’t have done me any harm.

“I hit a lot of putts that just didn’t go in. A putt at 10 for birdie, at 16, 17, that all touched the edge of the hole. Another day they’d have dropped but not today.

“You get in that rut when they’re not dropping that you can’t see a way out. I’m not out of it because there’s 54 holes to go. But I am a long way back.

“There’s nothing I need to do any differently. Just got to go and play. Did my best today, will do my best tomorrow and see what happens.”

Clarke was less despondent after his 72 having bogeyed the first from the middle of the fairway and then followed a birdie at the third with a double bogey seven at the par-five fifth — he found sand off the tee and had to chip out sideways — and another bogey at the seventh.

After birdies at the 10th, 12th and 18th, Clarke said: “I drove the ball really well and putted quite nicely but my irons were extremely average. At three over after seven, to get back to even was good.”

A huge fan of links in the wind, Clarke added: “This is not links golf today. This is not the way the golf course is supposed to play, we don’t get this weather too often on any links course in the UK or Ireland and I think whenever we do get some adverse weather, then things will change.”

“You don’t need an awful lot of wind here to make Royal Liverpool play very tough. There is enough trouble out there if you start hitting it off, just because it is perfectly manicured it doesn’t mean that it is any easier. The greens are sensational, it couldn’t be set up any better.”

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