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April 19 2011

8:39 PM

Clark still hopes to defend

There's been one silver lining to an otherwise cloudy season for Tim Clark.

That was the birth of his first child, a son named Jack, on April 1. Three days later, the South African found himself at Augusta National where he competed for the first time since January when he tied for second at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Clark, who is battling a severe case of tendinitis in his right elbow, wasn't even sure he would be able to play in the Masters until he warmed up on Thursday. He shot two more-than-respectable rounds of 73 to miss the cut and then returned home to his family in Scottsdale with more uncertainty in his life.

Clark is scheduled to defend his first title in three weeks at the PGA TOUR's signature event, THE PLAYERS Championship. But similar to the situation he faced at Augusta National, Clark doesn't know if he'll be able compete.

"It's just been a slow process, and I'm hoping that I'm able to tee it up the at THE PLAYERS Championship," Clark said during a teleconference on Tuesday. "Right now, I'm still pretty unsure as to how it's going to be by then. But obviously I will be going out there regardless, to play or not, I'll be there in Sawgrass for the week. … I just hope I'll be able to play."

Clark is also dealing with neck pain that likely is related to the tendinitis in his elbow. He worked with his trainers on both problems, and Clark wondered if playing through the pain at the Masters might break the "bad cycle" he was in.

"After Thursday, I really didn't think I was going to be able to play Friday, but got out there and you know, an hour and a half before the round, we got the arm moving and felt like I was kind of okay to play," Clark said. "But that was more of a case of me being stubborn and not really wanting to withdraw, is what I think happened there.

"Certainly I was encouraged by the fact that I could finish two rounds, even though I was still in quite a bit of pain. And certainly encouraged that I didn't shoot a couple of 80s and I was able to play quite well."

Clark expects to have a similar mindset at THE PLAYERS. He shot 67-67 on the weekend at TPC Sawgrass a year ago and didn't make a bogey over his final 26 holes to surge past Lee Westwood and Robert Allenby to win for the first time on TOUR.

"Obviously it was a huge step for my career,: Clark said. "I guess really more of a validation for the hard work I've put in and the years spent out there. The fact that it came at THE PLAYERS Championship and on such a great golf course is obviously very satisfying.” – Helen Ross

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