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Darren Clarke out to prove strategy correct

Darren Clarke decided to skip qualification for the U.S. Open so he could concentrate on competing for the Austrian Open title.

The 39-year-old Briton, who has battled his way back close to the world’s top 100 after a dip that coincided with the death of his wife Heather from cancer in 2006, did not play Monday’s U.S. Open qualifier at Walton Heath, England.

Clarke, who moved to 104th in the world rankings after a Wales Open fourth place, had committed to this week’s event at the Fontana club near Vienna and felt he would not be able prepare properly for the San Diego major.

“I’m disappointed I’m not in the U.S. Open but I wouldn’t have got there until Monday night and if you’re not prepared properly it’s a very difficult week,” Clarke told reporters.

“You need to get over jet-lag and get in proper practice and I wouldn’t be able to do that.”

Having decided to miss the year’s second major the Northern Irishman who claimed his 11th European Tour title by winning the Asian Open in late April, is now intent on making sure he does not miss the British Open at Royal Birkdale next month.

Clarke, tied second in 1997 and tied third in 2001, is not yet in the major, in which he has played every year since 1991.

“I want to make sure I’m exempt for the (British) Open, the way I’m playing now,” he said.

Victory in Austria, enabling him to get a foothold on the mini order of merit in operation for the British Open, would help his Birkdale cause.

Australian left-hander Richard Green, who beat Frenchman Jean-Francois Remesy in a sudden-death playoff last year, defends the title in Austria, while home favorite Markus Brier, the 2006 Austrian Open champion, is again sure to prove a big draw when the tournament starts on Thursday.

The two Walton Heath U.S. Open qualifiers who were in this week’s lineup, Britons Ross Fisher and Robert Dinwiddie, have withdrawn.

June 4, 2008


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