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Darren Clarke hoping to find form in South Africa

Ryder Cup veteran Darren Clarke is eager to arrest his slide down the world rankings at the Alfred Dunhill Championship starting on Thursday.

Clarke, the world number 247, has been putting in extended practice time in scorching 40 degree heat at the Leopard Creek Country Club ahead of the European Tour event, which is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour.

"Things have settled down at home and I want to play, I'm very keen to get going again," Clarke told reporters on Wednesday.

The 39-year-old Northern Irishman, who lost his wife Heather to cancer in 2006, said he would be trying to address a lack of confidence over the next four days.

"I had a pretty tough year last year and didn't play particularly well for a few different reasons. Everybody loses confidence when things aren't going well. So I don't have any specific goals, I've just got to play and the rest will come.

"I'll keep battling on and one of these days it'll turn around and I'll be fine."

Clarke noted that the Gary Player-designed Leopard Creek course would provide a tough examination.

"The course is fantastic and it will certainly be a very stern test.

"The rough isn't that penal, but if you're in it, it's going to be very difficult to hold your shots on the fast greens, which I'm told are only going to get faster."

England's Ross Fisher is tied with Lee Westwood at the top of the European Tour money-list with 299,894 euros ($441,100), but neither Westwood nor third-placed Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez are playing this week, which Fisher said he would like to capitalize on.

"With them not here, I've got a really good chance to move ahead. This event and next week's South African Open are great opportunities to win a tournament," the HSBC Champions runner-up said.

World number five Ernie Els is the highest-ranked player in the field and is virtually playing on his home course, owning a house on the estate.


December 5, 2007

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