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Clarke withdraws from Masters with hamstring injury

Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland hits out of the bunker onto the 9th green during the first round of the European Masters golf tournament i
Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland hits out of the bunker onto the 9th green during the first round of the European Masters golf tournament i

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Former British Open champion Darren Clarke has pulled out of this week's U.S. Masters because of a lingering hamstring injury, the Northern Irishman said on Monday.

The 44-year-old, who has made 11 appearances in the season's first major championship, suffered the injury just over a week ago while holidaying on the Bahamas island of Abaco.

"It is with deep regret that I will not be able to play at Augusta this year," Clarke said on his website (http://darrenclarke.com/).

"Playing in the Masters is one of golf's greatest pleasures and I am very disappointed to be missing out."

Clarke, who won his only major title at the 2011 British Open after holding off Americans Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, was also forced to withdraw from last week's Texas Open on the U.S. PGA Tour because of the injury.

Despite having rest and extensive treatment on his hamstring, Clarke felt he would not be able to cope at the Masters with the challenge of competing on the notoriously hilly terrain at Augusta National.

The Northern Irishman, whose best finish at the Masters was joint eighth on his tournament debut in 1998, said he will continue having treatment on his hamstring in the Bahamas.

Clarke will not be replaced in the field for the 2013 Masters, which starts on Thursday.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Justin Palmer)

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