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With just a few days until the start of the Ryder Cup, Darren Clarke was nursing a wrist injury rather than competing in the pro-am before the German Masters, which begins in Cologne on Thursday.

The Irish golfer described the injury as a "tweak" and said he should be fit to play the first round. But with several other Ryder Cup players missing from Cologne for a variety of reasons it will concern Bernhard Langer, captain of the European team that flies to the US next week, that one of his most experienced players has at best a niggling injury.

"I went to the physios who had a look at it [the wrist] and strapped it up purely as a precaution," said Clarke, whose form has improved considerably since he hired new backroom staff in the summer. "I felt it [the wrist] when I caught one a little heavy on the range. It's OK when I hit short pitch shots, but on the longer shot I feel it a little bit, so I didn't want to go out and play in the pro-am and make it any worse."

Clarke used the opportunity of sitting out the practice in Cologne to try to rein in the hype that has surrounded the European team - bidding to retain golf's ultimate team prize - since it was named two weeks ago.

"Hopefully we don't build our hopes up too much because we don't want to do that. But we are looking pretty good. I think we have a good blend between youth and experience."

The prospect of the European team going to the US and winning - unthinkable as recently as the British Open in July - has been sparked by recent performances from Langer's players suggesting they are gaining form at the right time. At the BMW International in Munich, Miguel Angel Jimenez was first, Thomas Levet second, Paul Casey and Colin Montgomerie joint third and Clarke and Paul McGinley joint sixth. Then last week, with only three members of the 12-strong side competing in the European Masters in Switzerland, Luke Donald - one of Langer's two wild-card choices - won with Jimenez second and Sergio Garcia third.

"It was thrilling to see," said Langer on Wednesday, "it's obvious all the players are playing well . . . It was just awesome to have the three fighting all week for a victory [in Switzerland]."

Absent from Cologne are Donald and Garcia who had already decided to rest this week, plus Lee Westwood, who has returned home to see his new-born daughter, and David Howell who has a heavy cold. That makes Clarke's health all the more worrying for Langer.

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