Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Darren Clarke is proud of creating his piece of Tour history

Still going strong: Darren Clarke, pictured yesterday after the presentation for his 500th tournament, is looking to the future

Darren Clarke and David Lynn will have extra reasons to enjoy the 78th US Masters when it gets under way at Augusta National today.

Former Open champion Clarke will become the first Northern Irishman to make 500 appearances on the European Tour when he tees off shortly before noon local time, while Lynn will make his 400th appearance at 8:29am.

Clarke, who will become the 25th player to reach such a milestone, was presented with an engraved silver ice bucket by Tour chief executive George O'Grady and said: "It seems like only yesterday that I was setting out on this journey into the unknown, but here we are 500 tournaments down the road and still counting.

"I couldn't have done it without a lot of help from a lot of people – they know who they are and I thank them enormously for it.

"What gives me just as much satisfaction in reaching this milestone is that I have seen the European Tour change enormously during my 20-plus years on the Tour, and for the vast majority it's been for the better.

"I'd like to thank the Tour for honouring me in this way and I hope we can share many more milestones in the future."

Clarke was set to make his 500th appearance in the Qatar Masters in January, but was forced to withdraw from the event because of a pulled muscle. The 45-year-old also missed last year's Masters through injury.

Lynn made his Masters debut last year and was two shots off the lead after an opening 68, before going on to finish 46th.

Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson insists he is nervous about competing at Augusta National this week, despite having won three green jackets and recording 11 other top-10 finishes in the year's first major championship.

Mickelson broke his major duck in the Masters in 2004 and went on to claim the title in 2006 and 2010, the left-hander also winning the 2005 US PGA Championship and last year's Open.

But a combination of indifferent form and injuries means the 43-year-old is not as confident as might be expected about his chances of matching Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods by claiming a fourth victory on Sunday.

"I'm nervous about this week because I always like coming into this week with a win," Mickelson said. "I like coming into this week having been in contention a few times.

"But I have to give myself a little bit of slack because I have not been 100 per cent. Last week I felt great, which I was surprised by, because I had pulled a muscle in Texas and withdrew.

"Physically I feel great. The parts of my game, if I break them down, they feel terrific. But I haven't put it together this year.

"I haven't experienced that pressure to feel comfortable in that environment, so I'm certainly nervous, because this is a week that I care about the most.

"This is the most special tournament and I have to rely on kind of past performances and past successes and past memories to build that confidence."

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