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McDowell pulls out of next week's Wentworth showpiece

LONDON (Reuters) - World number 16 Graeme McDowell has withdrawn from next week's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth because he wants to spend time with his wife Kristen who is expecting their first child.

The 2010 U.S. Open champion will miss the European Tour's flagship event for the first time in 12 years.

"I very much appreciated Graeme taking the time to phone me personally to tell me he wouldn't be at Wentworth," European Tour chief executive George O'Grady said in a news release on Thursday.

"But the fact that he wants to spend time with Kristen, who will not be able to travel for the next three months, is entirely understandable."

Wentworth has never been a happy hunting ground for the Florida-based McDowell who has missed the cut at the PGA Championship for the last three years and has never finished higher than 13th.

The Northern Irishman is the only member of the triumphant Ryder Cup team who will be absent next week.

The other 11 players all feature, as will 2012 captain Jose Maria Olazabal, defending champion Matteo Manassero of Italy, four-times major winner Ernie Els and 2011 U.S. Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.

As part of the celebrations surrounding the 60th anniversary of the event, a host of sporting celebrities will take part in the pre-tournament pro-am on May 21.

Ian Botham, Brian Lara, Andrew Strauss and Allan Lamb will represent the world of cricket.

Tennis pair Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski are also playing while Gianfranco Zola, Andriy Shevchenko, Glenn Hoddle, Peter Schmeichel, David Ginola and Teddy Sheringham are among the ex-footballers taking part in the pro-am.

Former Olympic rowers Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent will swap oars for golf clubs and ex-Formula One world champion Damon Hill is another sportsman expected to compete.

(Reporting by Michael Hann, editing by Tony Jimenez)

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