Injured Darren Clarke withdraws

OPEN champion Darren Clarke, yet to make a halfway cut this year, yesterday pulled out of next month’s US Open in San Francisco.

The 43-year-old has been advised to rest a groin problem that first bothered him the week before last month’s Masters and then resurfaced at last week’s BMW PGA Championship.

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Clarke has also withdrawn from next week’s Nordea Masters in Sweden, so his next appearance is now expected to be the Irish Open at Royal Portrush starting on 28 June. “I am extremely disappointed as Open champion that I will not be able to play the US Open,” said the Northern Irishman, who earned a five-year exemption with his victory at Sandwich. “But I have to make sure I am 100 per cent ready for Royal Lytham (his Open defence is on July 19-22) and I have been advised not to play for a month. I’ve not been able to get through the ball properly and I don’t want to take any chances.”

Clarke, who has played only two US Opens since 2004, has not had a single top-10 finish since his triumph last summer, when he finally achieved his dream of a major title 20 years after he made his debut. He leapt from 11th in the world to 30th with that, but is already back down to 73rd. Clarke was on course to survive the cut at Wentworth last week until he came home in a six-over-par 43 for a second round 77 that put him out by three shots.