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Darren Clarke's game has been good lately, but his mind obviously has been elsewhere. (Photo: Getty Images)
Darren Clarke's game has been good lately, but his mind obviously has been elsewhere. (Photo: Getty Images)

Open behind him, Clarke begins a total break from golf

With his wife struggling in her battle with cancer, Darren Clarke has finished up his Open and returned home for the foreseeable future. His compatriots hope he can return for the Ryder Cup, but he said he can't even think about that now.

HOYLAKE, England (PA) -- After he finished up at the Open Championship on Friday, Darren Clarke began a total break from golf. His decision, which he said he actually made several weeks ago, will allow him to devote himself to his wife Heather, who is battling cancer.

Clarke was only three strokes behind fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell after his opening 69 on Thursday, but he then slumped to a second-round 82 -- his worst round ever in a championship he first played back in 1991 -- and he missed the cut at 7-over 151.

"I made up my mind several weeks ago to play until after my favorite tournament, the Open, and then that would be it for a while," he said on his Web site. "If it had been anything other than the Open coming up I probably wouldn't have continued, but I have managed to get this far and now I'll be taking a break for the foreseeable future.

"My game has been good, but my mind has obviously been elsewhere," he added. "Now the priority is to be my wife and family and support them in every way that I can.

"I know that many people will be wondering about the Ryder Cup, but such things are not in my thoughts at the moment," he said. "Now is the time to concentrate on matters much more important than golf. I would like to thank everybody for their kind messages of support. Your feelings and thoughts have meant a lot to us all."

Clarke had been due to play in Germany next week, then take two weeks off before traveling to the United States for the final major of the season, the PGA Championship near Chicago, and the following week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.

The 37-year-old, who won that event three years ago, is currently 26th on the European Ryder Cup table, but qualifying finishes in six weeks' time and European Captain Ian Woosnam will obviously be keeping in touch with the situation.

Colin Montgomerie said only last week, when Clarke shared the lead with a round to go in the Barclays Scottish Open before slipping to fifth, that "a European team without Darren Clarke is a weaker team." Clarke has been a member of the last four European teams, losing only one of his five games in Detroit two years ago when Europe recorded its record-breaking victory.

Clarke is doing his own bit for breast cancer research by auctioning the European Tour Shot of the Month award he won recently. The bidding on his Web site has reached more than $10,000, and will run until Aug. 11.

Copyright 2006 PA Sport. All rights reserved.

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