DARREN Clarke’s unfortunate car accident means that Gareth Maybin and Michael Hoey will be flying the flag for Ulster at the Omega Dubai Classic which gets underway tomorrow.
Former Open Champion Clarke was forced to withdraw from the event following a minor road accident last week that left him with a ‘stiff neck’.
His manager Chubby Chandler revealed that Darren, who was a passenger in the car, ‘just needed to rest this week’.
The 44-year-old is expected to return in time for next week’s inaugural Pearl Golf Premier League, a 14-hole tournament pitting eight three-man teams against one another at the Aamby Valley golf course in India.
Clarke will be representing the Uttarakhand Lions in the event alongside Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat and home favourites Shankar Das and Mukesh Kumar.
Touted in India as golf’s answer to Twenty20 cricket, each round will be played over 14 holes instead of the regular 18. The league, with total prize money of $400,000, will feature two day-night rounds of strokeplay, followed by a final round of the best-ball format.
The Dubai Classic will the third tournament in a row for both Hoey and Maybin, neither of whom have made much impression on the upper echelons of the leaderboard in recent weeks. Michael, who will take a break after this event, tied for 42nd in Qatar last week while Gareth who is scheduled to travel on to South Africa for the Joburg Open, tied for 49th.
Spaniard Cabrera-Bello is defending the title he won 12 months ago, as is the Tour’s latest champion Chris Wood, who won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in spectacular style last week with an eagle three at the 72nd hole to leapfrog George Coetzee and Sergio Garcia at the top of the leaderboard and secure his first European Tour victory.
Garcia will have the chance to go one better this week in the US$2.5million event, but will have to get past world number eight, Lee Westwood, who is making his first appearance of 2013.
The 39 year old has an enviable record at the Emirates Golf Club, taking the runner-up spot three times, in 1999, 2010 and 2012, and amassing a total of seven top ten finishes, but in 19 appearances he has yet to pick up the trophy.
However, having moved to Florida towards the end of last year, Westwood has spent the off-season practising and honing his short game in the sunshine and believes he is starting this campaign better prepared than any other.
“I played a lot more this winter than I would normally play,” said Lee.
“There’s no rust. The main reason for moving to Florida was to get more games of golf, as I wouldn’t play normally when I’m at home because of the weather.
“Last week I had shorts on and was out playing with Luke Donald. Living in England I’ve always finished the year, gone home, packed the clubs away and came back out”