“Ryder Cup superstar!” is how Darren Clarke described Francesco Molinari after matching the Italian with a two-under par 68 on the first day of the KLM Open at Hilversum.
Clarke managed one more birdie than his 28-year old playing partner on a Dutch course criticised by many, including Whistling Straits champion, Martin Kaymer, who described them as ‘unplayable' following recent heavy rain.
The Irishman's remark about Molinari seemed timely given the Italian had just ended a post-round interview with Dutch TV and walking right by Clarke as the Irishman was asked his opinion of the Turin-born player.
Clarke was asked also if the pair spoke much about the Ryder Cup.
“Let's say we were chatting away,” said Clarke still grinning.
That prompted the response: “So were you able to offer Francesco any advice as to what to expect at Celtic Manor?”
Clarke said: “We were just chatting away and I am not going to give away any secrets. I've been doing this for too long to give away anything.”
Clarke's upbeat demeanour mirrors the superb mood he's been in all season despite the frustration with his putter, but for once it couldn’t have been much better.
“I had a couple of poor tee shots but it was nice to record five birdies and take just 28 putts on wonderful, simply wonderful greens,” said Clarke still grinning.
Damien McGrane also recorded a 68 but it is Belguim's Nicolas Colsaerts who leads the field after matching a European Tour career low in recording an eight-under par 62.
Co. Down's Simon Thornton signed for a 69 while the Ulster pair of Michael Hoey and Gareth Maybin recorded 72s.