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Darren Clarke seeks major focus

Darren Clarke wants to relaunch his career next year after enduring a traumatic 2006, with the major championships at the top of his agenda.

"I want to get back to competing again, trying to win and if I can do that I can hopefully take bigger steps and win bigger tournaments again," Clarke told Reuters on Monday as he signed copies of his new book Heroes All, My Ryder Cup Story 2006.

"The majors are very important to me. I've had a difficult time the past four years trying to concentrate fully but come Jan. 1, it will be a fresh start for me.

"If I can play the way I know I can play, I can hopefully contend in the majors."

The 38-year-old from Northern Ireland, whose wife died of cancer in August, said he was one of several Europeans who could give world number one Tiger Woods a run for his money in 2007.

"Paul Casey, David Howell, Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington have all played great this year and I'm sure they are going to challenge Tiger in the majors," said world number 33 Clarke.

"There are also a few of the older guys like myself and Lee Westwood who will hopefully do the same."

Clarke, who will spend the rest of the year at home with his two young sons, plans to return to competitive golf when Europe take on Asia at the Royal Trophy in Bangkok in January.

While he is keen to challenge Woods's supremacy on the world's golfing fairways, Clarke spoke in glowing terms of his special relationship with the 30-year-old American away from the course.

"We've known each other for a very long time," said Clarke. "We used to share the same coach in America in Butch Harmon.

"We spent a bit of time together there and we've ended up being very, very close and friendly."

Woods's father Earl also died in May and Clarke said their friendship had grown in adversity in recent months.

"We spoke to each other on a fairly regular basis before his Dad was ill and my wife became ill," he said. "We've had a really good friendship and it has just got stronger since both of them passed away.

"He is a good guy, a genuine guy, and he's a great friend to have."

Clarke said there was a special spirit among all the players during Europe's Ryder Cup victory over the U.S. at the K Club in Ireland in September.

"There was a lot of friendship between the two teams," he said. "A lot of things have happened this year, Tiger lost his Dad, Chris DiMarco lost his Mum and I lost my wife, that made it a bit of a different atmosphere than in previous Ryder Cups.

"But because we all play around the world now, and we Europeans play a lot of golf in America, we all know the guys so much better than we used to.

"There's still a huge will to win, you want to beat each other by as much you can, but as soon as the ball goes in the hole at the end of the match, we're back to being friends again."



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