Siem grabs the lead in Ireland

Germany’s Marcel Siem vaulted into the lead at the Irish Open late on Friday evening after a second consecutive 66.

Germany’s Marcel Siem vaulted into the sole lead at the Irish Open late on Friday evening after a second consecutive 66.

The 31-year-old picked up three late shots at the Killarney Golf & Fishing Club thanks to an eagle on the 16th hole and another birdie on 17 to finish on ten under par for the tournament, one shot clear of India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and Dane Soren Hansen.

Siem, whose sole European Tour victory came at the 2004 Dunhill Championship more than seven years ago, made three birdies on his front nine, before carding his first bogey after the turn on the par-four 12th.

He hit straight back with a birdie on 13, but bogeyed the 15th as well before his eagle-birdie close on 16 and 17 earned him the outright lead.

The German also has an added incentive for doing well in Killarney this weekend – since partnering compatriot Bernhard Langer to success in the World Cup five years ago he has not had another opportunity to represent his country in that competition. But a good showing here could see him join Martin Kaymer in China later this year.

“There’s two rounds to go – it’s only half-time,” said Siem. “I just want to stay calm and see what happens.

“It’s a great venue here and I love that golf course, and the crowds we had here the first two rounds is perfect. If we had that every week, it would be great.”

Overnight leader Singh’s second round performance wasn’t nearly as convincing as his career-best eight-under-par 63 on Thursday, but a one-under 70 was good enough to see him tie for second place.

“It was a bit more of a struggle, so I’m happy with one under,” said Singh, whose day started with him hitting into the hazard by Lough Leane.

“I didn’t drive it that well and my putting was not as good, but it was still good enough.”

Former Ryder Cup star Hansen, meanwhile, fired a five-under-par 66 to move into a share of second place.

“I played again sort of very, very similar round to yesterday,” he said. “I just kept my head on very well. There was a few loose drives on the last nine holes, but hopefully I can sort that out by tomorrow, otherwise I played pretty good.”

Spain’s Ignacio Garrido, who equaled Hansen’s 65 on the day, lies alone in fourth, one shot behind Hansen and Singh, while as many as six players are only three shots off the lead – including defending champion Ross Fisher, who went round in 68.

“I’ve got good memories from last year,” said Fisher. “I like the golf course, it fits my eye well, not playing as well as I did last year, but hopefully a little bit of work on the range, a good warm-up session tomorrow, go out there, shoot a good score and give myself a nice position to be in at the end of Saturday.”

Those tied alongside Fisher are fellow Englishmen Oliver Wilson, Simon Wakefield and Simon Dyson, Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin and Australian Richard Green.

As for Ireland’s four major-winners, they suffered mixed fortunes.

Rory McIlroy rallied strongly with three late birdies in his round to shoot 68 and finish on four under for the tournament, the same total as Graeme McDowell, who carded a sparkling 66.

Both are still very much in contention heading into the final two rounds.

But further down the field it was a disappointing day for newly crowned Open champion Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington, both of whom will play no further part in proceedings.

42-year-old Clarke dropped four shots in his last eight holes to effectively seal his fate by lunchtime.

He admitted that he was not yet back to his best following an energy-sapping last two weeks in the wake of his famous win at Sandwich.

“I just couldn’t get anything going,” he commented.

“A weekend off is not what I wanted. It probably won’t do me any harm, albeit I would much prefer to be here to play.

“A couple of things went my way over at Sandwich and here bounces went the other way. Payback time I suppose.

“I didn’t have much time off after The Open, but that’s no excuse for shooting 74.”

For Harrington, the writing was on the wall when he double-bogeyed the short sixth on his way to a 72.

“It’s disappointing, but it’s only a game,” stated Harrington.

“There’s no doubt that changes are required – for the sake of it rather than anything else.

“I’m doing everything I would have done when I was winning majors, it’s just something fresh is needed. You need a bit of spark somewhere.

“Even on my worst days I’m not too bad. It’s not like I’m shooting 77-78 sort of thing, but momentum is an important thing and I don’t have it at the moment.

“I’m not thinking of changing personnel. I’ve got to change something in myself, attitude or something along the lines of that.

“I’m not taking time off – I like playing golf.”