Darren Clarke has an extra reason to enjoy the 78th US Masters when it gets under way at Augusta National today.
Former Open champion Clarke will become the first player fromNorthern Ireland to make 500 appearances on the European Tour when he tees off shortly before noon local time.
Clarke, who will become the 25th player to reach such a milestone, was presented with an engraved silver ice bucket by Tour chief executive George O’Grady and said: “It seems like only yesterday that I was setting out on this journey into the unknown, but here we are 500 tournaments down the road and still counting.
“I couldn’t have done it without a lot of help from a lot of people - they know who they are and I thank them enormously for it. It is great to get this far.”
“What gives me just as much satisfaction in reaching this milestone is that I have seen the European Tour change enormously during my 20 plus years on the Tour, and for the vast majority it’s been for the better.
“I’d like to thank the Tour for honouring me in this way and I hope we can share many more milestones in the future.”
Clarke was set to make his 500th appearance in the Qatar Masters in January, but was forced to withdraw from the event because of a pulled muscle. The 45-year-old also missed last year’s Masters through injury.