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Darren Clarke rules himself out of US Open to concentrate on Ryder Cup captaincy

By Adam McKendry

Darren Clarke has withdrawn from next week's US Open at Oakmont citing his lack of preparation due to his role as Ryder Cup captain.

The Dungannon man was named captain of the European Ryder Cup team that will face the USA at Hazeltine in September later this year and has struggled for form in his own game this season.

Clarke has made only two cuts in eight appearances on the European Tour this season, one of which was at the Irish Open at the K Club last month.

The Northern Irishman is in the final year of his five-year exemption for winning the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George's and admitted his game is not in the right place to play at the second major of the year.

Clarke said: "I'm currently dedicating all of my time to our preparations for the Ryder Cup and, unfortunately, the US Open is not the place to be when your game isn't 100 per cent.

"I'm very sorry to miss Oakmont but I'm sure it will be a brilliant week.

"I'll certainly be watching very closely."

Clarke will be replaced by South Africa's Thomas Aiken, who finished 25th at Chambers Bay last year on debut and was fourth at the recent BMW PGA Championship.

Fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell continued his preparations for the tournament by carding a three-over-par 73 in the first round at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis.

The 36-year old finished his round with bogeys on the eighth and ninth, the final two holes of his round, to compound a poor day at TPC Southwind.

McDowell has fallen to 75th in the world rankings despite having five top 10 finishes this season and is at risk of missing out on an automatic Ryder Cup spot in Clarke's team.

Meanwhile, Dun Laoghaire Golf Club, near Dublin, will host the Curtis Cup this weekend with Banbridge golfer Olivia Mehaffey one of three Irish golfers in the squad.

Mehaffey is joined by former world number one Leona Maguire and Maria Dunne for the weekend's event, the female equivalent of the Walker Cup, and is contested by Great Britain & Ireland and the USA.

There will be three sets of foursomes and fourballs in today and tomorrow's play before all eight members of both teams face off in singles matches on Sunday.

Belfast Telegraph

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