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Page last updated at 20:42 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 21:42 UK

Clarke fails in bid for Open spot

Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke made his Open debut at Royal Birkdale

Darren Clarke's hopes of getting into the Open at Royal Birkdale hang by a thread after he failed to come through the 36-hole qualifier at Sunningdale.

The Ulsterman was targeting one of the 18 spots on offer but rounds of 74 and 70 left him well back on four over.

Paul McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal and Rory McIlroy also failed to qualify and Thomas Bjorn pulled out with an injury.

Simon Wakefield and Ariel Canete topped qualifying on seven under with Anthony Wall among those going through.

Johan Edfors, Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Ross Fisher and Gregory Bourdy finished on six under.

Ten players progressed on five under - Paul Waring, Thomas Aiken, Alexander Noren, Pelle Edberg, Wall, Jose-Filipe Lima, David Horsey, Martin Wiegele, Philip Archer and Steve Webster.

The six players on four under, including Olazabal, chased the two remaining places in a play-off with Simon Dyson and Peter Baker prevailing.

The 36-year-old Archer finally succeeded in qualifying for the Open at the 12th attempt.

"It's just great - a dream," said Archer. "I've watched the Open ever since Seve Ballesteros won at St Andrews in 1984 and after missing out by one shot four times I'm going to be part of it now."

Double Masters champion Olazabal, who hit back from an opening 71 with a second-round 65, is now set to take another lengthy break from golf.

The Spaniard is still struggling with fatigue after returning in March from seven months out with rheumatism.

His last appearance just over a month ago saw him miss the cut in the BMW PGA Championship for the first time in his career.

"I'm going home to take a rest and see if everything keeps improving," he said.

"Because it's the Open it was a good reason to come, but it was basically a test for me. I haven't played at all and can't practise much, so I wasn't really expecting great things.

"The doctors have taken one of my medicines away, but we have to do this gradually to see if I improve.

I have not given up the ghost, but I've got to find a bit of game

Darren Clarke
"It's going to take two months at least to see if my body is cured. I feel like practising, but I just get tired and can't hit balls and play 18 holes in the same day.

"But at least my lower back is not getting as tight as it did before and that's positive. I have to really look for those signs."

Clarke's only remaining chances of making it are to finish in the top five either in the European Open or the Scottish Open.

The Ryder Cup hero has played in every Open since 1991.

"I'm obviously bitterly disappointed, but in fairness I got what I deserved," he said.

Clarke, runner-up to Justin Leonard at Troon in 1997, added: "I can't moan about anything. I tried as hard as I could.

"I have not given up the ghost, but I've got to find a bit of game."

Clarke won the Asian Open in April but missed the cut in the French Open last week when a top-three finish would have got him into the Open.

Jeff Overton won the first North American qualifying event at the TPC of Michigan, with Tom Gillis, John Rollins, Tim Petrovic, Matt Kuchar, Alex Cejka and Scott McCarron picking up the other spots.

"I've never made it into a major, so I'm incredibly excited," said the 25-year-old Overton. "I haven't been playing very well this year, but today was the kind of day that you always dream about. This is how you want to play every day."

Paul Goydos was the winner of the second qualifying section, held a few kilometres away at the Dearborn Country Club.

Michael Letzig and Doug Labelle also qualified automatically, while former USPGA champions Davis Love III and Rich Beem survived a five-man play-off for four spots.

Kevin Stadler and Craig Barlow were the others to advance out of the play-off, while Iain Steel missed out.

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