IRISH OPEN: Darren Clarke forced to wait for home win

Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke’s wait for that elusive first Irish Open win will have to wait for another year.

Europe’s 2016 Ryder Cup captain finished the tournament as Ireland’s leading competitor but on six over par, he was down in a tie for 28th, well out of contention.

The 46-year-old was so disappointed with his performance on the greens after Saturday’s third round 72 that he threatened to try putting with his eyes closed.

Sunday’s level par 71 was an improvement but the 2011 Open Champion remained incredibly frustrated.

“My feel for speed has not been good this week at all,” said Clarke

“From tee to green I’ve flushed it. I love these conditions. I’ve shot level par today in really hard conditions. This to me is proper golf, this is how we should be playing.

“I think the guys will be glad to get away because of just how tough it has been, not for any other reason. It has been a real hard test this week.”

Graeme McDowell finished one shot behind Clarke, insisting the golf course and the weather had been the real winners in a tournament which saw only five players better par.

“It has been tough but it has been a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it,” said McDowell who will return to action on the US Tour PGA at the St Jude Classic (June 11-14).

“It has been great preparation for a busy summer. I’m walking away feeling beat up, but at the same time very positive about my game.

“This is about as raw as golf gets on this type of a links course with this type of a breeze.

“It doesn’t get more difficult than this.”

The 2010 US Open champion also paid tribute to Rory McIlroy who had invested so much of his own time in bringing a string of world-class players to the event.

“Rory elevated this event to the next level. He took on a huge commitment this week and really did great things with the tournament, getting Dubai Duty Free onboard and bringing it to Royal County Down. It has been fantastic,” he added.

Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington both ended the tournament tied for 43rd on 10 over par.

“I was going along quite nicely, finding it quite easy through 27 holes but I was a little disappointed after that,” said Harrington, who compiled a closing round five-over-par 76.

“I just missed too many short putts and you need to hole those short putts in those conditions.”

Lowry also was also baffled by a poor display on the Royal County Down greens.

“My long game was good enough to compete this week but I just struggled on the greens,” said Lowry, an Irish Open winner in 2009 as an amateur.

“The only thing I could say is it’s tough out there. From 15-20 feet I’m just trying to two-putt which is not really ideal.”

Simon Thornton closed out his ‘home’ tournament with a nine over 80 while Paul McGinley was forced to withdraw before play got under way yesterday with back problems.