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Clarke proves he can still cut it but Ryder Cup duty comes first

By Liam Kelly

Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, plus rookie professionals Gavin Moynihan and Gary Hurley, were among the nine Irish players who survived the halfway cut in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, but the door slammed shut on former champion Padraig Harrington.

A total of 22 Irishmen started the tournament, including three GUI amateurs.

By the end of play yesterday, the reactions of the survivors ranged from relief in Shane Lowry's case to pride in their fighting qualities from Paul McGinley and Ulster pair Clarke and McDowell, and pleasure from rookie pros Moynihan and Hurley.

Significantly only two of the Irish qualifiers came through the worst half of the draw - McGinley and Lowry, the latter only just making the cut on the mark of two over.

The former Ryder Cup captain and the wannabe Ryder Cup player both played on Thursday morning and yesterday afternoon, when rain and wind combined with a long golf course to test stamina and patience.

Rory McIlroy led the home challenge at seven-under, one off the lead.

Ryder Cup skipper Clarke (71), McGinley (71), McDowell (72) and Moynihan (71) all came through on one under.

Hurley shot 71 for level par. A 75 got Paul Dunne into round three on one over, while Kevin Phelan was also one-over par.

Clarke's Ryder Cup duties inevitably encroach on his own golf but he was pleased to get through in his 25th Irish Open.

"Because I'm not playing that much competitive golf, I'm making silly mistakes but that's to be accepted," he said.

"Mistakes are going to happen because I'm not really playing that much.

"There's a lot of it going on but I'm fortunate to be Ryder Cup captain, so that's much more important than my own golf right now.

"My heart and soul is going into the Ryder Cup and my own golf is second at the moment. If I do play half-decent, that's a bonus."

Lowry was twice in the water on the back nine, on the 12th and the 18th, and had to hole a nine foot putt for par on the last.

"Yeah, it was pure relief. I'm very happy to be around for the weekend," he said.

"I think four-under might be inside the top-10. I'm only six shots off that.

"If I can post something in the mid-60s, maybe I can be up there inside the top-10 before the leaders tee off."

McGinley had some flow in his game when he scored four birdies in a row on holes nine to 12 inclusive. He said: "I was obviously very pleased to have made the cut and be right up there in contention, but I played well in The Irish Open last year, too.

"I was hovering around 20th position when I had to withdraw on the Sunday morning, so it's always nice to play an Irish Open. This golf course, it's a really tough course for me, incredibly long.

"The par-fours on the front nine, crosswinds, very difficult. I paid the price, and missed fairways, but I had chances."

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