By John Manley
Darren Clarke doesn’t know how to make it easy. After plunging down the leaderboard in the third round of last week’s Volvo PGA, Clarke appeared to be home free going into the final round of the Compass Group English Open, sporting a five-stroke lead. He lofted the trophy after holing out on 18, but not after supplying a little drama at Hanbury Manor in Ware.
He drove his tee shot on the first hole into a greenside bunker, but rectified that miscue by holing out for an eagle-two. Later on 13, his ball came to rest in a narrow drainage ditch. Rather than drop in heavy rough, Clarke chose to play it as it lay, and was rewarded by knocking the ball to within chipping distance of the green. He one-putted for par, averting potential disaster.
There was also a 90-minute break called during the round, due to a thunderstorm. This may have worked to Clarke’s advantage as John Bickerton had closed to within two strokes at the time play was called. That challenger would get no closer when play resumed, and that turned out to be Clarke’s margin of victory.
Clarke finished 20 under par at 268, with rounds of 68, 65, 67 and 68. He took the lead during the second round and was never headed thereafter. It’s now onto Pinehurst and the U.S. Open for Clarke.
Eamonn Darcy was the only other Irishman on the course on the weekend, tying for 62nd place at 288. Darcy produced four rounds of even-par 72. Missing the cut at 144 were Philip Walton, 145 (76-69), Des Smyth, 146 (72-74), and
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John McHenry, 149 (71-78).
Elliott 23rd in NCAA
Toledo University’s Ricky Elliott produced the lowest score of the six Irish entrants in last week’s NCAA Div. I Golf Championship at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn. Elliott, playing as an individual after his team missed the 36-hole cut, tied for 23rd place at 12-over-par 300 (74-76-76-74). He finished 16 shots behind the medalist, Northwestern’s Luke Donald at four-under 284. Elliott is a junior from Portrush, Co. Antrim.
Georgia won the team championship by three shots over Oklahoma State. Clemson, with Belfast freshman Michael Hoey, tied for eighth place after having led at the midway point. Hoey tied for 73rd place in the individual race at 315 (81-78-80-76).
East Tennessee State finished 13th among the 15 teams that advanced to the final 36 holes. Dublin senior Eamonn Brady finished 80th, due to a nightmare of a third round, in which he shot 91. He shot 77 and 79 the first two times around, and closed with a 77, for a total of 324.
Toledo and California both missed the vital 15th position by five strokes. Alan Murray, a Toledo freshman from Dublin, shot 154 (75-79). Teammate Tim Rice, a junior from Rosbrien, Co. Limerick, finished at 157 (78-79). California’s Dan Coyle, from Dundalk, ended his collegiate career with two rounds of 79 for a total of 158.