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Clarke forced to withdraw from Matchplay

Defending champion Darren Clarke has been forced to withdraw from the WGC Accenture World Match Play Championship which takes place in Melbourne on 3 January.

A brief statement from Clarke said that he was pulling out of the event for family reasons.

"It's a major disappointment as I was really looking forward to defending my title, but in the circumstances I need to be with my family," said father of two Clarke.

A spokesman for the golfer added that the circumstances were a "very personal and serious issue".

The spokesman emphasised that Clarke was not pulling out of the event because of dissatisfaction with the timing and location.

Many of the world's best golfers including Tiger Woods have opted out for those reasons.

"It's a personal issue for Darren and his family and out of regard for him, I don't want to go any further into it," said David Brookes.

"He had no intention of pulling out of the event but priorities are priorities and Darren needs to be with (his wife) Heather and the kids now."

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