Clarke reaches milestone

Former Open champion Darren Clarke will become the first Northern Irishman to play in 500 tournaments on the European Tour when he tees off in the Masters at Augusta on Thursday.

The 45-year-old had been due to reach the milestone at the Qatar Masters in January but had to miss the event due to a pulled muscle.

He has now recovered and has been presented with an engraved silver ice bucket by Tour chief executive George O'Grady to mark his achievement.

"It seems like only yesterday that I was setting out on this journey into the unknown," said Clarke. "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.

"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."

He tees off just before noon local time on Thursday while David Lynn will be making his 400th European Tour appearance when he begins his round at 8.29am.

Lynn made his debut at the Masters last year and shot an opening round of 68 to lie two shots off the pace, before going on to finish 46th.