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Clarke frustrated with putting

Darren Clarke's high hope of ending a year-long winless drought was ruined again by the shortest club in his golf bag.

Not for a first time this season, Clarke struggled with the putter in recording 35 putts on the opening day of the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Cologne.

Clarke's frustration on a dull and overcast day was no more apparent when he stood over a three-foot putt for birdie at the par three, 16th hole on the Gut Larcenhof course.

However the 41-year old walked off moments later having three-putted the hole for bogey in an eventual round of a two under par 70.

“It's the same old story all year and that's my putting,” he said.

“My tee to green play is superb as I missed just two greens in regulation all day but once again I just let myself down on the greens.”

Despite his frustration, Clarke shares the leading Irish honours in the £1.75m event with fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell, with the duo trailing five strokes behind Denmark's Soren Hansen.

Hansen recorded an eagle and five birdies, in signing off for a 65, while England's Chris Wood is next best at six under par with South African James Kingston, Australia's Scott Strange, England's Ross Fisher and Scotland's David Drysdale in third place after rounds of 67.

Fisher, who was fifth in the U.S. Open and 13th in the British Open, arrived in Cologne lying sixth on the Race to Dubai money list and £198,410 adrift of third placed Rory McIlroy, who yesterday made a solid start to the Kolon-Hana Bank Korea Open as five players claimed a share of the lead.

McIlroy, 20, started on the back and though he reached the turn in two over he recovered with three birdies to return to the clubhouse with an level par 71 that left him four shots off the pace.

“It's a difficult course, really quite tight so level par is not a bad start. I did well to get things back to even,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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