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Darren Clarke's strong finish

By Karl MacGinty

Drawing on his morale-boosting performance in last weekend's Irish Open, Darren Clarke certainly showed the right stuff down the notorious finishing stretch at Le France National yesterday.

Clarke hadn't made a cut all year before Royal Portrush but he displayed the resilience one expects of a reigning Major champion during his first-round 70 at the French Open.

Two wayward shots landed Clarke in trouble at the 607-yard 14th, where he made bogey six, and the 399-yard 15th, where his nine-iron approach came down short in the water, leading to an ugly double-bogey.

Yet his response was inspirational as he went within inches of holing his 175-yard tee shot at 16 before draining the five-footer for birdie.

After hitting a fabulous five-wood all over the flag on his way to a facile par at 17, he then holed from 24 feet for one of only a dozen birdies yesterday on the exacting 18th hole.

It was encouraging, as this is Clarke's final outing before defending the Claret Jug the week after next. Graeme McDowell carded a level-par 71.

Belfast Telegraph

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