European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke has withdrawn from next week's U.S. Open, explaining that his preparations for the biennial matches at Hazeltine have taken a priority recently over fine-tuning his own game.
Clarke, 47, was in the last year of the five-year exemption he received for his Open Championship win at Royal St. George's in 2011. He has missed the cut each of the last three years at the U.S. Open, and the Ulsterman hasn't played the weekend at the season's second major since 2006.
He hasn't displayed much form this year, either, missing the cut in six of his eight worldwide starts. Clarke has dropped to No. 670 in the world, and his best 2016 result came last month at the Irish Open, where he tied for 43rd.
According to Clarke, much of his drop in on-course production can be attributed to the various off-course obligations that accompany his Ryder Cup captaincy.
"Unfortunately the U.S. Open is not the place to be when your game isn't 100 percent," Clarke said. "I'm very sorry to miss Oakmont but I'm sure it will be a brilliant week. I'll certainly be watching very closely."
Clarke's spot in the 156-man field went to South Africa's Thomas Aiken, who was the first alternate from the sectional qualifier held Monday in Memphis, Tenn. Aiken will be making his second U.S. Open start, having finished T-25 last year at Chambers Bay.
The USGA also announced that Thongchai Jaidee has withdrawn for personal reasons. Jaidee, who was fully exempt via the world rankings, will be replaced by Jeev Milkha Singh, who was the first alternate from the sectional held in England on May 30. Singh will be making his fifth U.S. Open appearance but first since 2009.