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Injury forces Clarke to opt out of Qatar Masters

DARREN CLARKE will have to wait to make his 500th European Tour appearance after pulling out of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters today through injury.

Clarke, who has lost more than three stone since October in a bid to recapture his best form, was due to play alongside defending champion Chris Wood and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez in the first two rounds.

However, the 45-year-old suffered a pulled muscle and was forced to withdraw, with Sweden's Jens Dantorp - who earned his card through the qualifying school last year - taking his place in the field.

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.

Play got under way shortly after 7am local time following a 30-minute fog delay and Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley made an excellent start before fading over his second nine.

McGinley is determined to keep his game sharp this year in order to see first hand some of his prospective team members for Gleneagles.

The Dubliner picked up two birdies in his first three holes after starting from the 10th.

At two under par, McGinley was two behind early pacesetter Matthew Baldwin, who had covered the front nine in 32, with Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Scotland's Stephen Gallacher among those a shot behind on three under.

McGinley remained two under par after 10 holes - scrambling a par on the first after pitching over the green with his third shot - and was then four adrift of leader Dawie van der Walt.

However, McGinley's charge faded as he finished on one over. Simon Thornton and Damien McGrane were best of the Irish on two under with Peter Lawrie finishing eight over.

Van der Walt , who won the Nelson Mandela Championship in his native South Africa in December, had carded a flawless 65 containing five birdies and an eagle to lead by one shot from Spanish duo Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Nacho Elvira and France's Francois Calmels.