Darren Clarke withdraws from Qatar Masters through injury

Darren Clarke will have to wait to make his 500th European Tour appearance after pulling out of the Qatar Masters in Doha on Wednesday through injury.

Clarke, who has lost more than three stone since October in a bid to recapture his best form, was forced to withdraw because of a pulled muscle.

The 45-year-old was replaced in the field by Sweden's Jen Dantorp.

He had been due to play with defending champion Chris Wood and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez in the first two rounds.

Clarke won the Open Championship in 2011, but has failed to record a single top-10 finish on the European Tour since his triumph at Royal St George's.

A weight-training routine and special diet has given the Northern Ireland golfer a new shape and fresh impetus as he bids to improve his world ranking of 277.

When Clarke does compete in his 500th European Tour event, he will become the fourth Irishman to reach the landmark.

Eamonn Darcy, with 610 appearances, heads the list and is followed by Des Smyth (594) and Paul McGinley (545).

Play got underway shortly after 07:00 local time on Wednesday following a 30-minute fog delay.

Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin and County Down-based professional Simon Thornton make up the Northern Ireland challenge at the tournament.