Irish hopes get blown off course as trio fail to make cut

There was an Irish weather wipeout at Royal Birkdale last night as Shane Lowry and former Open champions Darren Clarke and Pádraig Harrington all crashed out in the torrential rain.

The Irish trio had all been up against it heading into the second round but though each of them had the pedigree to excel in the poor weather conditions, none could bring their rain games to bear in Southport.

For Harrington, there was particular disappointment given his success at Birkdale nine years ago when he successfully defended the Claret Jug, the first European to do so since James Braid in 1906.

Yet despite the three-time major winner returning to the Lancashire links in good form following a top-four finish at last Sunday’s Scottish Open, Harrington had opened with a three-over-par 73 on Thursday and was quickly in trouble as he got round two under way, like Lowry and Clarke, in the worst of the day’s weather conditions.

The 45-year-old double-bogeyed the par-four second and bogeyed the par-four third to put himself further behind the curve. A birdie at the fifth clawed a stroke back but two bogeys on the back nine, at the 10th and the par-three 14th, made the task of making the cut all the more difficult, despite the projected cutline falling steadily throughout the day. As Harrington played the 17th the cutline was at five over par as he was seven over for the tournament. The Dubliner gave himself a chance with a birdie at the second of Birkdale’s par fives. He needed another at the last and thought he had it when he sent in a chip from in front of a greenside bunker only to see his ball roll agonisingly past the hole by little more than an inch and leave him with a look of bemusement.

Harrington signed for a second 73 as he bowed out at Birkdale at six over par.

“I thought it was going to break right to left instead of left to right. It kept going straight. It looked like it was going in all right. The story of my day,” he said.

“Between now and Birkdale the last time I was here, I probably got the average amount of breaks. I’ll take it as it went. I’ll try to have it all one week and none the next.”

Lowry also headed for an early exit as he failed to improve on his opening day two-over-par 72. Teeing off in the 47th group of the day’s 52 threeballs, Lowry was forced to contend with the strongest winds and, later on, the heaviest rainfall. His start was in accordance with the treacherous conditions as he negotiated his first three holes in bogey, par, and double bogey.

Lowry, 30, had spoken of his frustration at not getting his due reward for good play of late, typified by his opening 72, and he played some great golf over the rest of his front nine at Birkdale without gaining any ground. At the 10th the run of pars ended with a birdie three but it was followed by misfortune, a bogey at the par-three 12th followed by back-to-back double bogeys at 13 and 14, the second par three on the back nine as he slipped to nine over par for the week.

A birdie at the first of Birkdale’s two par fives, the 15th, offered hope that was quickly extinguished with a bogey five at the second of them, the 17th, and another at the last, Lowry signing for a 78 that left him 10 over par.

Clarke, the 2011 champion at Royal St George’s had finished his first round with back-to-back birdies to sign for a five-over 75, although he had decided to retire his putter after a putting performance he had described as a disaster.

The new implement saw an improvement as Clarke reduced his putt count from 38 to 28 but his closing holes yesterday evening was less stellar. One over at the turn after a birdie and two bogeys on the front, Clarke gave himself hope with back-to-back birdies at the par-four 10th and 11th.

Alas, the Portrush star posted a double-bogey six at the 13th for the second day in succession and there was a second straight bogey five at the 16th to send him further behind the cutline at seven over par. A bogey at the last will have given Clarke a bitter taste and he signed for a 73, three over for the day and eight over for the tournament.

There will be some cheer in the Clarke household, however. Darren’s son Tyrone tees it up at Lahinch next week in the South of Ireland Championship.



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