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Clarke aims to spark in Spain

GOLF: British Open champion Darren Clarke admits his pride has been wounded as he begins yet another attempt to spark his career back into life.

Heading into the Volvo World Match Play Championship at Finca Cortesin in Spain, the 43-year-old is still searching for his first top-10 finish since Sandwich last July -- and has yet to make a halfway cut this season.

"My pride has been hurt. That's enough motivation," Clarke said. "I don't need anything else.

"I've been so frustrated with the whole thing because I've been trying so hard. Too hard probably -- not to justify the Open win, but to back it up.

"It's not as if I'm being lazy. Whenever I'm in Portrush I'm beating balls in all weathers.

"I don't want to play the way I've been playing and I'll just keep going, keep going, keep going -- it will turn round at some stage."

It is not an excuse but Clarke does point out that his commitments off the course have increased 10-fold following his major win.

"I'm not very good at saying, 'No'," he admitted. "My schedule has been chaotic and that's why I didn't go to the Players Championship last week. Another trip to the States wouldn't have been any good.

"Hopefully one of these days my game will just click back into place. The bottom line is that I've just got to play better."

The season has been such a letdown that thoughts of a return to Ryder Cup action -- his last appearance was that emotional week at The K Club in 2006 when he won all his three games only six weeks after his wife died from breast cancer -- are distant from his mind.


"At the moment I'm so far out of the reckoning, but there's still a long way to go," added Clarke, who married again in The Bahamas last month.

The only two tournaments where he stayed to the end this season were those with no cuts. He was 20th out of 35 at the Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa and then 43rd out of 72 in the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami.

That event was won by Justin Rose and it is him and fellow Englishman Robert Rock -- conqueror of Tiger Woods and the world's top three in Abu Dhabi in January -- that Clarke will take on in the group stages this week.

The 24-strong field is divided into eight groups of three, with the top two progressing to the last 16 after round-robin games.

Rose, who finished only 51st at Sawgrass on Sunday, finds himself the second seed for this week with 10 of the 11 players ranked ahead of him turning the event down. Martin Kaymer, the world's number nine, is top seed.