Published Wednesday, 22 January 2014
Darren Clarke, pictured earlier this month at the Volvo Golf Champions. (© Getty)
Clarke, who has lost more than three stones in weight 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 top10 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 was again making an excellent start.
Dubliner McGinley, who was just one off the lead after the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last week before finishing 19th, is determined to keep his game sharp this year in order to see first hand some of his prospective team members for Gleneagles.
He revealed last week that playing for money against the likes of Sam Torrance and former tennis star Tim Henman at Sunningdale was paying dividends and 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.
US PGA champion Jason Dufner, who was joint ninth here 12 months ago, was one under par after five holes.
© UTV News