Injured Clarke must wait for 500th appearance

Injured Clarke must wait for 500th appearance
Darren Clarke putting in Abu Dhabi last week. The putter is now deceased. Picture: Eoin Clarke

Darren Clarke putting in Abu Dhabi last week. The putter is now deceased. Picture: Eoin Clarke

Darren Clarke has pulled out of the Qatar Masters because of injury and may have to wait until the Masters to make  his 500th European Tour appearance.

The event got underway today but a pulled muscle has prevented him taking his place in the field.

According to reports, Clarke arrived at the Doha course on Wednesday hoping to start, but after hitting a few balls on the practice putting green he advised officials he was not fit to play.

Clarke, who was set to become the 25th player to compete in 500 tour events, headed back to his hotel and a flight home.

"It's disappointing Darren's had to withdraw as the tour was looking forward to honoring his 500th tournament with a presentation before he teed off this morning," tournament director David Probyn said.

"We will just have to wait now until Darren next competes in a European Tour event."

The 45-year-old, who has lost more than three stone in weight in an attempt to recapture the form that saw him win the Open Championship in 2011, was due to play alongside Qatar defending champion Chris Wood and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez in the first two rounds.

As the European Tour live blog reported: "...his ceremonial ice bucket, to mark the occasion, has itself been put on ice."

Sweden's Jens Dantorp - who earned his card through the qualifying school last year - has replaced Clarke, who has failed to record a top-10 finish on the Tour since winning at Royal St George's two-and-a-half years ago.

Clarke, currently ranked 277th in the world, has rejoined the PGA Tour on the back of his five-year exemption for winning at Sandwich nearly three years ago.

He is scheduled to reappear in the Northern Trust Open at  Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles from February 13-16 and will not now make his 500th European Tour appearance until the Masters.

The Dungannon man finished 24th in the limited field Volvo Golf Champions two weeks ago before poor putting led to a disappointing 52nd place finish in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship last week.

According to reports, he was so disappointed with the performance of his putter that it ended up in two pieces in a bin following his closing 73.

Darren Clarke's provisional schedule

13 - 16 February Northern Trust Open: Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California, USA

20 - 23 March Arnold Palmer Invitational: Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge, Orlando, Florida, USA

03 - 06 April Shell Houston Open: Redstone GC Tournament Course, Humble, Texas, USA

10 - 13 April MASTERS TOURNAMENT: Augusta National, Georgia, USA

01 - 04 May Wells Fargo Championship: Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

8 - 11 May THE PLAYERS Championship: TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA

22 - 25 May BMW PGA Championship: Wentworth Club, Surrey, England

12 - 15 June US OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, NC, USA

19 - 22 June Irish Open, Fota Island Resort

3 - 6 July Alstom Open De France: Le Golf National, Paris, France

10 - 13 July Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open: Royal Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland

17 - 20 July THE 143RD OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: Royal Liverpool GC, Hoylake, England

7 - 10 August PGA Championship: Valhalla GC, Louisville, Kentucky