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Darren Clarke finds the wrong birdie as bizarre rule ruffles his feathers

 

Bird’s-eye view: Darren Clarke was penalized at the US Senior Open after his caddie attempted to move a bird feeder from his line of play
Bird’s-eye view: Darren Clarke was penalized at the US Senior Open after his caddie attempted to move a bird feeder from his line of play
Christiaan Bezuidenhout

By Brian Keogh and Phil Casey

Darren Clarke looked "goosed" after he incurred a bizarre bird box penalty and crashed out of the US Senior Open in Indiana.

He followed an opening 73 with a two-over 72 to sit three shots outside the projected cut mark at Warren Golf Course and left to rue an unfortunate rules infraction on the 10th hole in his opening round that led to a costly two-stroke penalty.

At Clarke's request, caddie Bradley Whittle tried in vain to uproot a bird feeder on a pole that was in his intended line of play from the trees, believing it was a movable obstruction.

But by having his caddie bend the pole - an immovable obstruction at the Notre Dame course - a few degrees to the right, Clarke improved his line of play in breach of Rule 8.1a, turning a bogey five into a costly triple-bogey seven.

He ended up 19 shots behind clubhouse leader Steve Stricker, who followed an opening 62 with a six-under 64 to lead by two shots in the clubhouse from Jerry Kelly on 14-under par.

There was little good news for Irish on tour with Robin Dawson the only player to make the cut in Europe.

The Tramore rookie, 23, carded a second successive 71 to lie eight behind France's Antoine Rozner on two-under in the Italian Challenge Open at Terre Dei Consoli where Cormac Sharvin and Ruaidhri McGee missed the cut.

In the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama, Paul Dunne (9-over) shot a five-over 76, Michael Hoey (10-over) a 78 and Gavin Moynihan (13-over) an 83 to miss the two-over cut comfortably.

South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout will take a four-shot lead into the third round of the Andalucia Masters, but tournament host Sergio Garcia remains in contention for a fourth straight victory.

Bezuidenhout took advantage of the calmer morning conditions to add a 68 to his opening 66 to finish eight under par, with Garcia's 72 leaving him on four under alongside fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Adri Arnaus and Welshman Bradley Dredge.

"Most of all I just kept it in play nicely, which is the key thing," Bezuidenhout said. "I'm driving it pretty well, so I was hitting quite a lot of fairways.

"A course like this you can score from the fairways and if you don't hit the fairways you're going to struggle. I prefer the tougher conditions, you've got to face it and I'm just going to do the same over the weekend."

Garcia first won the Andalucia Masters in 2011 before the tournament dropped off the European Tour schedule for five years, and his victories in 2017 and 2018 mean the 39-year-old has recorded an incredible 13 top-10 finishes in 14 appearances at Valderrama.

The former Masters champion carded three birdies and four bogeys in his 72 and said: "I wouldn't say it was a bad round, it was very difficult this afternoon. The greens were very firm, it got windy. I didn't really make any putts, but I felt like I played well under the conditions."

World No.11 Jon Rahm also shot 72 to lie seven shots off the lead and was left frustrated.

"It's just a lot of stupid mistakes, as simple as that. It's just annoying," Rahm said.

"It's not like I'm playing bad and it was not that difficult this morning, I'm just leaving shots out there when I shouldn't and it's costing me getting a real low round going."

Seamus Power was a late starter on one-over in the PGA Tour's Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, where Dustin Johnson and US Open champion Gary Woodland were projected to miss the cut.

Big-hitting Cameron Champ raced to the turn in eight-under 28 but came home in one-over for a seven-under 65 to lead by two shots in the clubhouse from Ryan Armour on 13-under.

In amateur golf, Caolan Rafferty is eight shots behind Germany's Matthias Schmid heading into the final round of the European Amateur in Austria.

Schmid fired a nine-under 63 at Diamond Country Club to lead by two strokes from Austria's Maximilian Steinlechner on 13-under with Rafferty tied for eighth after a 70.

In the Vagliano Trophy at Royal St George's, Forrest Little's Julie McCarthy beat World No.3 Frida Kinhult 3&1 to leave Great Britain & Ireland trailing 7-5 after the opening day.

Kirkistown Castle's Beth Coulter won both her matches to help GG&I take a 5-4 lead in the Junior Vagliano Trophy.

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