Elbow injury might cause Clark to withdraw

Tim Clark of South Africa watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.

Tim Clark of South Africa watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – For sure, the four-putt from beneath the hole at the par-4 10th hurt. “I mean, I’m looking at birdie and make double bogey,” Tim Clark said.

And certainly, the ensuing bogey at the 11th didn’t smooth the agony. After all, he was at that point 3 over on a Masters day ripe for scoring.

But for the really miserable pain? Clark pointed to a simple 70-yard shot he had early on.

“It requires so much speed, and with the right arm,” he said. “And I just don’t have that.”

Clark hung his head, scruffed some of the pristine Augusta National turf and showed his exasperation, despite fighting back to shoot 1-over 73.

“To be honest, I don’t see me going 18 holes (Friday), the way it hurts,” he said. “But I’m stubborn. We’ll see.”

Sidelined since opening the season with two successful tournaments in Hawaii (T-17 at the Hyundai, second at the Sony), the 35-year-old Clark has grown steadily concerned about an issue with his right elbow. In so much pain he was unable to even touch his clubs, Clark was told that rest was the order of business for what was diagnosed as tendinitis. There hasn’t been tremendous improvement, so Clark came to Augusta hoping almost for a medical miracle.

If it weren’t the Masters, “no way I’d be playing,” Clark said.

He played in the Par 3 Contest on Wednesday, but still didn’t make his mind up about playing until he warmed up before the first round. Still mystified as to how he’d fare, Clark did the improbable – driver, 5-iron to 4 feet and a birdie at the demanding first hole, one that played fifth-toughest, at a 4.222 field average.

“I should have quit there,” he said, laughing.

Instead, he played on, and unfortunately the pain went on, too.

“It hurt all day and only got worse,” he said.

Clark, who won last year’s Players Championship, said there were times he could shut off the pain. “Once you are over the shot, it’s an actual tournament shot, and you’re not thinking about the pain,” he said. But at impact and the follow through? He cringed. Indeed, that’s when you couldn’t ignore the pain.

“It’s really tough to see him go through this,” said Adam Scott, one of Clark’s best friends and a housemate this week. “But at least he’s out there trying.”

Part of Clark wanted to take pride in the 73, but knowing that conditions were good and that “it’s absolutely ideal for me,” he said he shrugged that all off. On the other hand, Clark conceded, “I could have come out here and not broken 80.”

He did, easily, thanks to a 6-iron that stuffed close for a kick-in birdie at the par-3 12th, then a birdie at the par-5 13th. He birdied 16, but gave it back with a bogey at 17 to come home 1 over.

Not awful, not great, and Clark conceded that he was headed for post-round “treatment, because I’ve got to get my strength back in my arm; I haven’t used it in 10 weeks.”

For solace, Clark at least didn’t have far to go. Before leaving for Augusta, the South African was home in Arizona to watch wife Candie deliver the couple’s first child. Jack was born Friday and “they’re all doing great,” Clark said, showing a smile for the first time all day.

“It’s a good thing for them,” Scott said. “There’s Baby Jack. So (Tim’s) happy, anyway.”

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