Disastrous start for Clarke

Playing in the same group as Tiger Woods in Akron on Thursday didn’t exactly help new Open Champion Darren Clarke.

Playing in the same group as Tiger Woods in Akron, Ohio, on Thursday didn’t exactly help boost new Open Champion Darren Clarke.

Clarke opened with a disastrous seven-over 77 in the first round of the prestigious WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to finish the day in joint last place, his only consolation being that there is no cut to miss this week.

The amiable, easy to get along with Clarke, who Woods considers a good friend, was paired with the former world number one in his return to golf, probably with the intention of helping ease the beleaguered American’s way back into the big time.

But it did nothing for Clarke – and this despite the burly Ulsterman producing the shot of the day when he holed-out with his 183-yard approach to the eighth for an eagle two.

At that stage Clarke was already three over and was to eventually come home on the back nine in a six-over 41 that included finding water for a double bogey seven on the 16th and dropping more shots on each of his last two holes.

Clarke was tied for last with England’s Simon Dyson, who had to make some hasty travel plans after qualifying for the event by winning the Irish Open on Sunday. But like Clarke, he too won’t have any halfway cut to worry about.

On a day of low scoring Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Paul Casey all missed out.

The first four all shot one-over 71s, while Casey double-bogeyed his closing hole for a 73.