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No home comforts for McDowell and Clarke

 

By Adam McKendry

As Graeme McDowell stepped onto the 15th tee at Portstewart, he looked to be in good shape to make the cut. After all, he'd just made back-to-back birdies on the par-fives, 13 and 14.

But things quickly unravelled.

A fluffed chip on the par-three 15th led to a momentum halting bogey and a struck fan at the 17th spared his blushes after he got a flier from the rough, the ball ricochetting back onto the green.

But his calamitous 18th was the death knell to his chances of making the cut as G-Mac made three fatal errors to leave him making a sorry exit from the Irish Open.

Finding the fairway bunker off the tee was his first mistake, missing the green with his third shot was his second, and then leaving his pitch outside of gimme range was his third.

The Rathmore man trudged off the final green after a double bogey, signed his scorecard and quickly withdrew from any media attention.

While it was the climax of his round that ended his challenge, the rest didn't help.

An opening birdie was cancelled out when he lost a ball on the par-five fourth, which led to a double bogey. He didn't birdie the downwind par-five seventh, and he compounded that on the eighth by pushing his approach wide and failing to make up-and-down.

Good birdie chances came and went at the 10th and 11th. The birdies on 13 and 14 offered renewed hope, and a small buffer, but it wasn't enough.

The warning signs were there for McDowell and, while it wasn't as bad as last week's four bogey finish at the Open de France, this one will hurt twice as much.

Not only will he not compete at the weekend at home, his Open Championship qualification hopes rest solely on a high finish in Scotland next week.

On this form, that's far from guaranteed.

Former Open champion Darren Clarke fared little better, needing a spectacular round to make the weekend and instead finishing second to last.

Three bogeys in the opening five holes put him under pressure early and he never recovered, despite steadying the ship with six straight pars.

But a triple bogey on the par-three 12th ended any remote hopes of getting to the weekend and, despite a morale boosting birdie at the 14th, a closing bogey signalled a disappointing end to the Ulsterman's challenge.

Belfast Telegraph

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