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'Freak' tennis injury forces Darren Clarke to miss out on Masters

By Kevin Garside

A hamstring injury sustained on holiday in the Bahamas has forced Darren Clarke to withdraw from the Masters. Clarke has had a wretched run since his victory at the 2011 Open at Royal St Georges, a win that earned him an exemption at the majors for five years.

"It is with deep regret that I will not be able to play at Augusta this year," Clarke said. "Playing in the Masters is one of golf's greatest pleasures and I am very disappointed to be missing out."

Clarke was playing tennis with his two sons a fortnight ago when the small tear in his hamstring occurred. Intensive treatment has not helped. "It was just one of those freak injuries which is really disappointing," he said. "I have done absolutely everything to be at Augusta: physio, ultrasound and icing, but I cannot physically turn through shots and there is no point in going to the Masters if you are not 100 per cent fit. Understandably, I am absolutely gutted but I hope to be fit enough to be back for the Ballantine's Championship on the European Tour in a couple of weeks' time."

Clarke was not the only one in the wars. Jose Maria Olazabal left one fan a bloody mess after striking him in the head with his ball at the eighth during the first day of practice. Wearing a red shirt Olazabal rushed to the scene where the spectator received immediate treatment before leaving with his head heavily bandaged. Olazabal, the last European to win at Augusta, sent him on his way with a signed glove.

Augusta rookie Nicolas Colsaerts had the best possible coaching for his debut – with an hour-long talk from six-time winner Jack Niklaus.

Colsaerts, 30, said: "I was chatting to his son Jack Jnr in the clubhouse and said: 'What would be your best advice for your first Masters?'

"He said: 'I would just talk to dad' and asked if I'd like him to call him. Jack said he could come over and I felt pretty lucky. I spent an hour with him and went through every hole on the course!"

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