Saturday 24 February 2018

Clarke aims to shine Down Under

Mark Garrod

Darren Clarke will be trying to end what he calls an "incredibly frustrating" spell in this week's Australian PGA Championship at Coolum.

Since winning The Open in July, the 43-year-old Northern Irishman has not managed a top-30 finish - unless, of course, you include fourth place out of four at last month's Grand Slam in Bermuda.

Clarke insists it is not through lack of effort after capturing the biggest title going and celebrating through the night and beyond.

"Obviously I am a little bit more in demand now than I was before, but it has all been good," he said.

"If anything it has spurred me on to work harder than I ever have before and I work pretty hard anyway.

"I've just been trying too hard and as much as I try to chill out a bit I just can't wait to get out and practice and play. Hopefully my fortunes will change."

With the Claret Jug making the trip as well, Clarke is at the start of a four-week stint that also takes in the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, the Dubai World Championship and the Thailand Championship.

He is up against a field this week that includes eight of the players who took part in the Presidents Cup last week - Australians Adam Scott, Aaron Baddeley, Robert Allenby, Geoff Ogilvy and Jason Day, plus American Bubba Watson and Koreans YE Yang and KT Kim.

"The guys are going to be immensely tired," Clarke said. "I couldn't imagine playing. After I have played the Ryder Cup I have no chance of playing the week after."

He partners Scott and International captain Greg Norman in the first two rounds and Scott, who with KJ Choi inflicted a record defeat on Tiger Woods and then beat Phil Mickelson in singles, is the pre-tournament favourite.

"My game, on the whole, is better than it has ever been in my career," Scott said. "I feel like every week for a while now I have been walking out there and putting myself in a position where I can win.

"All signs are pointing in the right direction, so I just have to keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully I will have an even better year next year."

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