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Pierre Fulke decides to skip Players

Europe's leading golfer this season has decided to miss this week's Players Championship, the sport's richest event, and often referred to as the unofficial fifth major. Swede Pierre Fulke, winner of the Volvo Masters last November and runner-up in the World Match Play Championship in Melbourne in January, was to have made the 4.3million tournament his first-ever US Tour start.

Instead, however, the 30-year-old will take the week off and prepare for his Masters debut in a fortnight by playing next week's BellSouth Classic in Georgia - an event with none of the prestige, none of the same quality field and only half the prize money.

Fulke has not played since the Dubai Desert Classic, where he was troubled by a groin strain and missed the cut. But Guy Kinnings, from the International Management Group which handles Fulke, said Fulke had made his decision based not on any injury worries, but purely in an effort to give of his best in the first major of the season at Augusta.

Pierre Fulke, seen here with the Volvo Masters trophy he won in 2000. Allsport.
"Pierre felt very tired after a long run at the start of the season," said Kinnings on Tuesday. "He wants to be absolutely right for the Masters and after a lot of thought decided his best chance was to play next week rather than this week. He knows himself very well. His recent success has opened so many doors and there is a massive temptation to run through all of them.

"But he felt a little bit over-golfed and he now wants to make sure in his scheduling that he can give of his best when he plays. He knows the Players' Championship is a wonderful tournament and he's sorry to miss it. But he hopes there will be a lot more chances to play it."

Fulke is already sure of a Ryder Cup first cap in September, but there will be those who say that the more top-level competition he is exposed to before then the better. This week's event, offering a first prize of just over 770,000, would certainly be that.

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