England’s Oliver Wilson has suffered a blow to his Ryder Cup hopes, pulling out of the European Open at The London Club in Kent because of back trouble.
Wilson lies eighth on the points table and looked set to move closer to securing a debut when he played the first nine holes of the French Open last week in four under.
It appeared there was something wrong when he struggled to complete the round in a five-over 76, then added a second day 81 to be joint 145th of the 156 players.
Runner-up three times this season, including the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May, he was due to play with Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell today, but his place was taken by Swede Joakim Backstrom.
Ian Poulter made a sparkling start to the £2.4million tournament – back in England after 13 years at The K Club near Dublin – when his approach to the 426-yard 10th hit the flagstick and stopped two inches away.
He tapped in for a birdie that was then matched by both Colin Montgomerie with a 25-footer and Darren Clarke, who holed from six feet.
Having failed to come through the 36-hole Open qualifier at Sunningdale on Monday Clarke is seeking a top-five finish this weekend to earn a spot at Royal Birkdale.
He was paired with Padraig Harrington, but the Open champion went long on the 10th and bogeyed to be three behind Ross Fisher, who birdied both the 10th and short 11th.
Clarke also birdied the long 12th to share the lead, but while he then bogeyed the next two Fisher added further birdies on the 15th and 16th and on four under opened a two-stroke advantage on the field.
Poulter and Montgomerie remained one under after five, while Harrington’s birdie on the 12th brought him back to level par.
South African trio Hennie Otto, James Kingston and James Kamte were in joint second with Welshman Phillip Price and England’s Robert Rock.
Garcia, Justin Rose and Paul McGinley – another still searching for an Open spot – were among the later starters.