Darren Clarke, one of the most popular players in this year's Masters field, has withdrawn from the tournament, citing a hamstring injury. Clarke is a favorite in the clubhouse, particularly of Tiger Woods. But he's struggled since his career-defining British Open win at Royal St. George's in 2011. He's played in four of the five majors since that win, missing three cuts and finishing outside the top 50 at last year's PGA Championship.
Clarke made the announcement on his website, releasing the following statement:
"It is with deep regret that I will not be able to play at Augusta this year," said Darren. "Playing in The Masters is one of golf's greatest pleasures and I am very disappointed to be missing out."
He suffered the pulled hamstring last week in The Bahamas, and withdrew from the Texas Open in order to try and rest up for The Masters.
Clarke's record at The Masters is not exactly brilliant, with a T8 in 1998 as his best showing. The Open Championship victory earned him a five-year exemption at Augusta, where he had not played in four years before that major victory in 2011. It's unlikely Clarke will be at Augusta beyond the current five-year exemption, so the injury is likely significant if it's forced him to waste one of those chances and withdraw so early in the week.
Clarke's WD does not open up a spot for anyone else, however, because this is Augusta National Golf Club and there are no alternates. The loss of Clarke is not a huge blow to the field, as he probably wasn't a contender in the way Dustin Johnson (who WD) was last year. The field now stands at an odd 93.