First Graeme McDowell slumps to one of his worst rounds as a professional golfer, plummeting out of contention with a third-round 81, then, for the first time in his career, Darren Clarke fails to break 80 on two consecutive days. The Wales Open didn’t prove quite the happy hunting ground fans of Northern Irish golf were hoping for.
McDowell’s humbling may have the weekend’s most shocking, but Clarke’s was probably its most prolonged. Starting the week in high spirits, his most recent victory– at the Iberdrola Open– less than three weeks distant, he opened with a 68, only to collapse over the weekend and card successive rounds of 80.
Embarrassingly, the big Northerner needed a cumulative eighteen shots to play Celtic Manor’s fourteenth hole over the two days. On Sunday, after his tee shot careened into the water, he made his way to the drop zone, drew his three-wood from the bag and sent two more balls into the hazard in quick succession. The result was a ten that sat uneasily alongside the snowman (8) he’d already made there the day before.
After the round, Clarke did his best to look on the positive side:
“And I hit them all well,” he said after a second successive 80 made him 18 over par for the tournament. “Let’s just say this course does not really fit my eye. It never has done – and I putted unbelievably poorly as well.”