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Irish Open: Darren Clarke says course was great, he just made too many errors

By Peter Hutcheon

Considering he had just signed for a four over par 75 Darren Clarke was in surprisingly philosophical form at Royal County Down.

Not so very long ago a first round performance like that at an Irish Open would have had the Dungannon man railing against the world but he is a calmer man these days. Most of the time, that is.

"I didn't play well, didn't do anything well, hit the ball poorly and took a lot of the wrong clubs," he said.

"It was just a bad day. The course was great - tough but fair and I just didn't play it well.

"It is a difficult golf course. Once you get in a little bit of a bad spot you can drop a shot very easily and you can see that a lot of the guys are doing that."

There were big galleries out to see Clarke and his fellow Ulstermen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell who were all among the earlier starters in yesterday's first round.

Not that many players managed to get themselves under par in what were testing but not overly windy conditions.

Clarke was four over by the time he reached the turn and although he did manage to pick up two birdies at the par five opening hole and the very difficult short seventh, he dropped a couple more as well on the way back to the clubhouse.

"My distance control was off," he said.

"I couldn't get it within 50 feet of the hole a lot of the time and you can't really afford to do that on this course.

"There are holes out there that you have to take advantage of and I was making bogeys on those holes.

"Royal County Down is too stern a test to do that and anybody who isn't quite at the top of their game is going to struggle."

The man Clarke succeeded as Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley, was one of many to fall victim to the seventh hole yesterday - although he was more than happy to sign for a one over 72 despite his double-bogey five there.

"Like everybody I've got a sad story with that double-bogey on the seventh," he said.

"It was an eight iron and I ballooned it straight up into the air and I got a horrendous lie in the rough and could barely move it.

"It's a brutal hole. Normally it would be a pitching wedge for me but with the wind I hit the eight and I probably should have hit a seven."

McGinley had back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to compensate and overall he was delighted with his performance.

"It's a magnificent test of golf," he said.

"In an ideal world there would be less blind shots and the greens wouldn't be quite so small.

"You're always playing with cross winds and so those small greens require a huge amount of skill to find.

"For me it is a fantastic challenge and you are doing well if you hit 12 greens out there," he added.

Argentina's Emilano Grillo was one of the few men in the morning to come out with a score under par as he opened with a two under 69.

He finished off with a birdie four at the last, rushing to get finished just as the heavy rain moved in.

"I had to hurry up and hit my second because we could see the rain was coming in," he explained.

"We would have had to wait 10 minutes as it was coming down heavily, so it worked out perfectly.

"We don't have these sorts of courses in South America so it has taken a bit of getting used to this week.

"I've seen links golf on the TV but you still have to figure out how to play around the greens. There are so many different things we play week to week."

Useful links

Live Leaderboard - Irish Open 2015

Irish Open: Hole-by-hole guide

Irish Open: Food, music and craic guide

Irish Open: Tee-off times

 

Further Reading

Irish Open: Catch me if you can is reborn Padraig Harrington's cry  

Irish Open: Darren Clarke says course was great, he just made too many errors  

Irish Open: Tee-off times in the second round of the European Tour's Irish Open

Irish Open: World No 1 Rory McIlroy well below par as his homecoming turns into a nightmare

Irish Open: Pals are expecting Rory McIlory to roar back

Irish Open: Patience pays off but Rickie Fowler wanted more

  Irish Open: Graeme McDowell determined to tame the beast at Royal County Down

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