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Darren Clarke not fazed as Ryder Cup duo battle for fitness

By Liam Kelly

Ryder Cup wildcard selection Thomas Pieters and Open champion Henrik Stenson have assured captain Darren Clarke they will be fit for duty at Hazeltine despite unwanted niggling health issues.

Pieters (24), a controversial captain's pick ahead of Scotland's Russell Knox, withdrew from the KLM Open, which started yesterday, in unusual circumstances.

The Belgian was primed for a defence of the title he won last year, only to suffer a serious allergic reaction to a bee sting, causing symptoms similar to flu.

The incident occurred on Monday when Pieters was playing a pre-tournament challenge with Dutchman Joost Luiten.

Pieters tweeted: "Very sorry to all the fans that are on their way to support me and to the organisation TIG Sports.

"I owe it to you guys to defend my title next year. Lots of other very talented guys to follow around the course this week."

Pieters expects to recover quickly and, with three weeks left before the European team gather in Minneapolis, time is on his side.

Stenson has his fingers crossed that a slight meniscus tear in his right knee will not get any worse.

The Swede withdrew after round one of The Barclays a fortnight ago in order to have an MRI scan on the injury. He then played the Deutsche Bank Championship last week, finishing tied-41st on four under par, 11 shots adrift of winner Rory McIlroy.

He has taken a chance on missing the BMW Championship, the third of the FedEx Cup play-offs, to rest the knee, and hopes he can stay in the top 30 who go through to the Tour Championship the week after next.

European captain Clarke will monitor the injury/health concerns, but he does not want to think about having to call up a replacement for any of his 12-man team - at least, not yet.

"I haven't thought about that," said the Ulsterman. "If he (Stenson) had told me that it was causing him severe pain then yes, I would have gone down that route.

"Anything could happen to any player tomorrow. But Henrik assured me the next day he'll be fine for the Ryder Cup."

England's Ben Evans, meanwhile, carded a six-under 65 to hold a one-shot lead after the first round of the KLM Open at The Dutch in Spijk.

The 29-year-old carded seven birdies, four of them in succession from the 12th, with his only bogey coming at the 17th.

That left him one clear of eight players, including compatriot Chris Hanson and Sweden's former Ryder Cup player Peter Hanson.

Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey filed a round of 69, Paul Dunne shot 74, and Peter Lawrie carded 76.

At Mount Wolseley Resort in County Carlow, 22 Irish players, including four amateur stars, teed off in the coveted Volopa Irish Challenge.

England's Sam Walker scorched around in a six-under 66 to lead by two from Edouard Dubois (France), Darius Van Driel (Holland) and Steven Brown of England.

The home challenge was led by Rory McNamara on 70, two under par. Ardglass man Cormac Sharvin was next best of the Irish on one under.

Belfast Telegraph


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