Date: August 24, 2008

Party time for Clarke

A week after going back to Northern Ireland to mark his 40th birthday, Darren Clarke might have more reasons to celebrate on Sunday and next weekend. Clarke takes a three-stroke lead over Swede Henrik Stenson into Sunday&aposs final round of the KLM Open in Holland, and his performance could easily earn him a Ryder Cup call-up from Nick Faldo next Sunday – perhaps at the expense of Colin Montgomerie. Clarke shot a 66 in the penultimate round to sit 12-under-par for the tournament. Of the Australians, Peter Fowler heads the brigade with a three-round total of 207, nine strokes from the cleared Clarke. Countryman Matthew Millar is two strokes further back with Peter O&aposMalley one more shot behind. While Clarke was all smiles after his joint best-of-the-day 66, Justin Rose was furious with himself after falling into the pack. Eighth in the points race, Rose flew from America to try to clinch a Ryder Cup debut and hoped he might be able to head straight back across the Atlantic for the second leg of the FedEx Cup play-offs. Now, however, he might have to stay for the final qualifying event, the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, and after three-putting from inside 15 feet on Kennemer&aposs last green his anger boiled over. “That was pathetic – just pathetic. A load of old rubbish,” said the world No.12, with a few expletives thrown in for good measure. A one-over-par round of 71 left Rose down in 24th place on three under and the two players immediately below him on the Ryder Cup points table, Oliver Wilson and Soren Hansen, are five under and six under. Clarke had moved into a share of the halfway lead with a second round of 64 and more birdies on the fourth, sixth and seventh holes today swept him clear. The inspiration of Europe&aposs 2006 victory – Clarke claimed three wins out of three just six weeks after his wife Heather died of breast cancer – did bogey the difficult eighth and saw the gap closed from three to one, but he responded by picking up more strokes on the 12th and 13th. Stenson, already certain of his cup place after finishing third in The Open and fourth at the US PGA, had a 68, while England&aposs John Bickerton came home in 29 for a 66 which put him third. Scotland Marc Warren and New Zealander Michael Campbell were a further stroke back and the leaderboard no longer features the two men with whom Clarke shared the overnight lead. Clarke said: “I came here to try to show Nick I have a bit of game and if I play well I have a great chance.” “I had lots of chances and hit a lot of really good shots – and a couple of poor ones, probably due to a lack of concentration.” “I&aposm playing with one of the great players in the world in Henrik again tomorrow, so it should be great. I knew I was playing OK and I&aposve really enjoyed the course.” Third Round of the KLM Open (Par 70): -12: Darren Clarke 68 64 66 -9: Henrik Stenson 68 65 68 -8: John Bickerton 65 71 66 -7: Michael Campbell (New Zealand) 68 66 69, Marc Warren 72 64 67 -6: Gregory Bourdy 69 67 68, Simon Dyson 70 64 70, Soren Hansen 65 69 70, Paul McGinley 69 68 67, Alexander Noren 66 66 72, Anthony Wall 67 68 69 -5: Ross McGowan 69 64 72, Anders Hansen 69 66 70, Damien McGrane 67 69 69, Rolf Muntz 64 72 69, Patrik Sjoland 72 66 67, Oliver Wilson 69 70 66 Also: -3: Peter Fowler (Australia) 71 67 69 -1: Matthew Millar (Australia) 71 69 69 E: Peter O Malley (Australia) 71 69 70