Irish Open – Darren Clarke heads clutch of home-soil hopefuls
Ryder Cup godfather Darren Clarke looks back to his best after carding another low opening round score on the European Tour to sit just one shot behind the clubhouse leader at the Irish Open.
After a second-place finish at the Scottish Open and a tied-44th spot at The Open Championship, the Ulsterman has shot a score of 66 to sit tied-second on five under par and is in serious contention to win his 13th Tour title.
Clarke, who is currently ranked 102 in the world but 20th in the Race to Dubai, carded a faultless round with five birdies and is a tempting price of 10/1 to win on the Killarney course.
Clarke is one of a trio of Northern Irishmen and Irishmen to find themselves near the top of the leaderboard after impressive openings.
Rory McIlroy, another Ulsterman, finished his erratic round on four under par and is now the clear favourite, at 4/1, to win the title.
That accolade would be McIlroy’s first of the season on the European Tour, although he has already won the Quail Hollow Championship on the PGA Tour.
The world number eight, who also finished third at this month’s Open, carded eight birdies and three bogeys in his round. Such a large number of under-par holes hints at his potential to shoot a low score here, having already hit a 62 at Quail Hollow and a 63 at St Andrews this season.
Ryder Cup vice-captain Paul McGinley is also in contention, although a bogey on the last hole slightly undermined his round of 68.
The Dubliner is tied fourth on three under and is 25/1 to win in his home country.
Australian Richard Green is the clubhouse leader on six under par, after carding a round that included seven birdies and a bogey. After leading the Scottish Open and the Scandinavian Masters early, the world number 133 faded to 14th and 41th place finishes, perhaps giving reason to doubt his 10/1 price.