Clarke withdraws from tournament to be with sick wife

Darren Clarke has been forced to withdraw from the Houston Open after receiving news of wife Heather’s medical tests.

Darren Clarke has been forced to withdraw from the Houston Open after receiving news of wife Heather’s medical tests.

Heather Clarke is fighting breast cancer and the PGA Tour put out a statement saying Clarke withdrew “to return home outside London to discuss further treatment with Heather and her doctors”.

Clarke had finished the first round at four under, two strokes behind leader Stuart Appleby.

Appleby knew there was a six-under-par 66 to be had at Redstone Golf Club, he was just a little surprised he was the one who shot it.

Appleby posted the 66 in the first round and leads Jerry Smith and DA Points by a stroke.

Charles Warren, Mathias Gronberg, Aaron Baddeley, Brent Geiberger and Stephen Leaney are two strokes behind.

The new course used for the event certainly pleased Appleby.

“There was definitely a six-under score had to be had out there by somebody,” Appleby said. “I was fortunate enough where my round was not clean and perfect but there were enough shots where I hit it good enough to give myself opportunities and I had a couple of good breaks.”

One of those was on the 17th hole when Appleby chipped in from 45 feet for a birdie that tied him with Smith and Points. He took the lead on the final hole when he made a 20-foot birdie on the difficult 472-yard par-four.

Smith had the outright lead before reaching the final hole. His tee shot went in the bunker and his approach landed before the green. His third shot came to rest eight feet away from the hole but he was unable to make the par putt.

“It’s a great finishing hole and I am sure there will be a lot of drama if it comes down to that,” Smith said.

It was the only mistake of the day for Smith, who had six birdies and one bogey.

Baddeley, a 25-year-old Australian who won at last week’s Verizon Heritage, continued the momentum from his first career PGA victory.

“I definitely made it a point this week to not let up because in the past sometimes when I have won, the next week I have not quite played as well,” Baddeley said. “I was maybe a little lazy, so this week I wanted to keep the routine normal.”

Appleby had a break after finishing tied for 19th at the Masters. He took the following week off and feels more prepared for this event, which he won in 1999.

“I sort of like the way my game feels right now,” Appleby said.

“I like the course and I think the course will fit a lot of players’ eyes this week.”

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