sport

Clarke makes bright start

A slimline Darren Clarke was hoping his new look would bring about a return to top form in testing conditions in the Volvo Golf Champions.

Former Open champion Clarke has lost almost three stone in weight in recent months as he looks to reproduce the golf which brought him a first major title at Royal St George's in 2011.

The 45-year-old has failed to record a single top-10 finish on the European Tour in the last two seasons and qualified for this limited-field event by virtue of his 14 career victories, along with Colin Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington, Jose Maria Olazabal and Robert Karlsson.

The rest of the 36-strong line-up in Durban was made up of tournament winners in 2013 and 2014 and former champion Branden Grace, who shared the lead with France's Raphael Jacquelin on two under par, one ahead of Clarke.

After missing from 25 feet for birdie on the first, Clarke's tee shot on the par-three second came up short of the green, but the Northern Irishman chipped in from 20 yards.

With a stiff breeze blowing across the course making life difficult, Clarke dropped his first shot of the day on the fifth but birdied the par-five eighth to be out in 35.

A birdie on the 10th was then cancelled out by another dropped shot on the 11th and left Clarke one under par, one behind Jacquelin and Grace who had carded two birdies and no bogeys in their first 12 and eight holes respectively.

England's Chris Wood had been three under par after just four holes, but dropped shots at the fifth and sixth, while Miguel Angel Jimenez - who turned 50 on Sunday - chipped in for birdie at the first but then ran up a seven on the third after taking a penalty drop from heavy rough.