x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Clarke shoots 66 to keep his Ryder Cup hopes alive

Darren Clarke carded a five-under-par 66 in the first round of the Irish Open to maintain the good form that could land him a surprise Ryder Cup spot.

Darren Clarke carded a five-under-par 66 in the first round of the Irish Open yesterday to maintain the good form that could land him a surprise Ryder Cup spot. Clarke's round left him a stroke behind Australia's Richard Green, the early leader, and lifted his hopes of qualifying for Europe's match against the United States in October. If the 41-year-old Northern Irishman were to win the Irish Open, he would earn 500,000 Ryder Cup points, enabling him to surge up Europe's qualification points table from 21st spot.

It would also qualify him for the Bridgestone Invitational next week in Akron, Ohio. Clarke has been chosen as one of three non-playing vice-captains by Colin Montgomerie, the Europe captain, but he still has time to make the team for Celtic Manor in Wales. "I will play if I qualify and I think Monty will want me to," Clarke said. "We spoke at length about it and Monty's said he wants me there one way or another."

Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion, Germany's Marcel Siem and Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet share second place with Clarke. Justin Rose's hopes of qualifying automatically for the Ryder Cup team suffered a blow with a round of 74, but there was worse news for his English compatriot Robert Ruck, who was disqualified for a mistake in filling in his scorecard. He had shot a 65, which would have given him a share of the lead with Green.

* Agencies