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Portrush local Darren Clarke bows out in distraught silence after failing to make Open cut

Jeremy Wilson
Darren Clarke was so distraught that he immediately walked straight off the course without speaking to the media - AFP

Darren Clarke is so well regarded at his home club of Royal Portrush that he even has his own little hut and personal practice area in which he can fine-tune his game in quiet isolation.

Upon leaving the 18th green on Friday afternoon in front of thousands of stunned fans, he looked like a man who simply wanted to find refuge in the ground swallowing him up. 

Clarke had arrived at the 18th tee at level-par for the previous 35 holes and, with the cut then projected at one or two-over, knowing that a bogey or better would be sufficient to guarantee his participation for the weekend. He duly contrived to make an agonising triple-bogey to shoot a second round 74 that ensured he would take no further part in the tournament.

The 2011 champion, whose victory at Royal St George’s was so significant in persuading the R&A to bring the Open back to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, was so distraught that he immediately walked straight off the course without speaking to the media. 

The tournament had begun so well for Clarke - he was three-under through five holes early on Thursday - before finishing that first round at level-par. He then again played steadily throughout much of Friday, making two birdies and two bogeys in his first 17 holes, before the dramatic ending to his round.

British amateur champion James Sugrue, who was playing with Clarke, also missed out Credit: PA

The problems had started at the 18th with a wayward tee shot into a fairway bunker from which he needed two shots to escape. Clarke's fourth did then reach the green to still leave a long putt for bogey. Yet having struck that putt to around four feet, the return effort somehow slid off to the the right of the hole for an agonising triple bogey and the most horribly anti-climatic ending.

Dublin’s Padraig Harrington, the two-time Open champion and Clarke’s former Ryder Cup team-mate, also missed the the cut after finishing the tournament at three-over-par. 

An outward nine of 34, including three birdies, had put Harrington within sight of surviving the weekend but consecutive bogeys at 13 and 14 ultimately also ended his involvement prematurely.

British amateur champion James Sugrue, who was playing with Clarke, missed out by one shot following an anxious wait to discover if he would make the cut. The 22-year-old from County Cork had begun the day at level-par and looked well placed after going through the first nine holes at one-under, but his round was derailed by a triple bogey at the 14. 

Sugrue did then narrowly miss a birdie chance at the 18th to reach a score of one-over that would have ensured his participation for the weekend before ultimately finishing tied with Rory McIlroy at two-over.

“Obviously I'm not best pleased,” said Sugrue. “I definitely didn't deserve triple on 14. Maybe bogey but I still can't believe that no one saw that ball.”

There was also sympathy for Clarke after seeing his triple bogey seven at the last. “He had a swipe in the bunker and it went nowhere,” said Sugrue. “He hacked it out and three-putted. I feel for him, I know how he feels.”

Another former champion David Duval improved by 13 shots on his nightmare showing on Thursday of 91, but was still seven-over-par for his second round to finish 27-over for the tournament.