Darren Clarke will get the chance to rebuild his world ranking in Qatar next week - but only thanks to Rory McIlroy.

The Ulsterman has had to ask amateur McIlroy to hand over a sponsors' invitation to play in the 120-man event so he can use it to kick-start his 2007 season.

Darren Clarke has pulled rank on Rory McIlroy.

Next week's Commericalbank Qatar Masters, co-sanctioned by the European and Asian tours, boasts an elite 120-man field.


But with nearly half that number coming from the Asian Tour, Clarke amazingly found himself on the reserve list late last week.

McIlroy had already been announced as a sponsors' invite but it wasn't long before a text message came through from Clarke asking for it back.

McIlroy revealed: "To tell you the truth, Darren Clarke had to take my invite. He didn't get in through the European Tour and I had one of the sponsors' invites.

"I got it through Chubby Chandler and because Darren didn't get in off his Order of Merit position from last year, he texted me on Friday and said, 'I'm sorry but I'll have to take it.'

"I said okay, of course, and Darren said he would make it up to me in some way, so that's fine."

Clarke only managed to play 14 events on the European Tour last year as his late wife Heather battled cancer.

And as a result he finished 43rd on the European Tour's Order of Merit - his worst ranking since he finished 112th in his rookie season in 1991 - and crashed from 18th to 40th in the world rankings.

With fewer than 60 European Tour members getting into the tournament, Clarke was second reserve late last week.

The tournament organisers had announced the Ryder Cup hero's participation in the event -formerly promoted by his management group ISM - as far back as December 14.

His absence would have left them red-faced but European Amateur champion McIlroy was able to throw him a lifeline.

McIlroy said: "It was pretty funny so hopefully I will get into Dubai the week after and I am looking at the Malaysian Open as well.

"It was a bit of a weird situation but knowing Darren I am sure he will do something for me. He is good like that. He needs the invite more than I do right now."

McIlroy is still confident that he will get a sponsors' invite for the Dubai Desert Classic from 1- 4 February and has high hopes of getting into the Maybank Malaysian Open alongside Clarke the following week.

He added: "I got my driving licence the week before Christmas so it was a nice end to last year. Now I am just looking forward to getting out there again.

"I have just been trying to get as much preparation in as possible, going to the gym every day and working on my short game. Let's see if I can actually get a start somewhere."

While Clarke is now a certainty to play in Qatar, fellow Irishmen Damien McGrane, Graeme McDowell, Peter Lawrie and Gary Murphy all look certain to miss out.

McGrane and McDowell were 10th and 11th reserves yesterday with Lawrie a hopeless 16th on the list of players waiting for the call.

So far, just three Irishmen will tee it up with Clarke joined by Paul McGinley and sponsors' invite Graham Spring, the professional at tournament venue Doha Golf Club,

US Ryder Cup star Chris DiMarco and Australian star Stuart Appleby have also been handed invitations for the $2.2 million event that also features Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Michael Campbell and Sergio Garcia.