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Bickerton passes up chance to join elite

John Bickerton has turned down the chance to play with the best golfers in the world after deciding to stay with his wife, who is in hospital expecting their first child.

The 29-year-old made up his mind this morning after he was asked to replace Jesper Parnevik in the American Express World Golf Championships at Valderrama, which starts on Thursday.

Swede Parnevik will not play another tournament this year due to pains he was experiencing in his chest and his place in the prestigeous tournament has gone to Droitwich golfer John Bickerton.

Parnevik fell one tournament short of the required 11 to retain his European Tour membership and was thrown out of 15th place in the European Order of Merit and Bickerton, who was 21st, moved upto 20th, was given the chance to play in the 3.3 million event as one of the top 20 finishers.

A first prize of over 600,000 - more than Bickerton has won in his entire European Tour career - is up for grabs as is a guaranteed minimum 15,000 in prize money.

In this week's tournament he could, amazingly, have jumped to second in the final Order of Merit and earned invitations to next year's Masters, US Open and US PGA.