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Injury scare for Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke gave Europe's Ryder Cup preparation a jolt when he suffered a wrist injury on the eve of the German Masters which starts here today. The 36-year-old Ulsterman was taking no chances of aggravating what he called "just a little tweak" of the right wrist and withdrew from the pro-am yesterday.

"It is nothing much," he insisted. "I felt a little bit of a tweak when I caught one a little heavy on the range, so I went to the physio who had a look at it and strapped it up purely as a precaution. I've had stuff like this before. It is OK when I hit short pitch shots but it is on the longer shots that I feel it a little bit, so I didn't want to go out and play and make it any worse. I'll be fine for the tournament."

Clarke's injury will worry him and his Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer only if it persists late into next week. Even so Fredrik Jacobson, the Swede who was unlucky not to make the team on his own merit, is on stand-by should Clarke or anyone drop out.

Jacobson, who is playing in Canada this week, is the first reserve in both categories from which Europe's side was selected. Should anything happen to Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Sergio García, Miguel Angel Jiménez or Lee Westwood before the start of the match at Oakland Hills a week tomorrow, Jacobson is next on the world points list. Similarly if Thomas Levet, Paul Casey, David Howell, Paul McGinley or Ian Poulter, all of whom qualified via the European points list, succumb to anything serious, there is Jacobson again. He would also be the replacement for either of the captain's picks, Colin Montgomerie and Luke Donald.

Only Donald and García were absent from the original field for this £2m event at the Gut Larchenhof course but Westwood and Howell have both withdrawn to be replaced by Robert Rock and Iain Pyman. Howell has a heavy cold and on Sunday Westwood's wife Laurae gave birth to their second child, Poppy Grace.

Sniffles, a newborn and one wonky wrist notwithstanding, Langer was happy with the state of his team so close to the Ryder Cup. He was particularly pleased with Donald's win in the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre last week and with the performances of Jiménez, who was second, and García, who shared third place.

"It was a fantastic response from Luke," Langer said of his young wild card. "The result could not have been better and it just shows how good a player he is: to have played only eight events in Europe this year and won twice. Also to have the only three Ryder Cup players competing in Switzerland finish one, two and three was thrilling to see."

"I don't care what message it may send out to the Americans," he added, in a typically measured response to a predictably rah-rah question, "because I am just glad the guys are playing well. I just hope also that they can keep up the form this week here in Cologne and again next week in Detroit."

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