Friday, 19 March 2010
Africa Open - Previews  (Getty Images)
Africa Open - Previews (Getty Images)

Darren Clarke is keen to put a disappointing 12 months behind him when he tees off at this week’s Africa Open in East London.

The Northern Irishman is amongst several high-profile players assembled in the South African coastal city for the competition, which is making its first appearance on The European Tour.

Other big name players in the field include 2009 European Tour winners Nick Dougherty from England as well as home favourites James Kingston and Richard Sterne, while New Zealand starlet Danny Lee is also likely to be a major contender in the €1,000,000 event.

But there will be plenty of focus on Clarke, who was narrowly edged out by Retief Goosen last year.

“Obviously Goosen’s not here, but he played great last year and I had to finish second,” he said.

“Hopefully this year I can go one better. I had a pretty poor year (last year), so I want to come back to winning again and go from there."  

As always on the coast, the wind is expected to play a key role in determining the outcome of the competition, but the 41 year old is not fazed.

Clarke, whose best finish last year was tied fifth at the KLM Open at Zandvoort, added: “I like the wind coming up, which is what I’m use to from growing up and playing at home, so it’s a good thing.

“Last year, I think we were quite fortunate here that the wind didn’t blow too hard.”

Dougherty, the BMW International Open winner from 2009, is returning to South Africa for the first time in five years and admits that the wind will be a major factor.

He said: “It’s nice to come down here, it’s been a few years since my last visit. It’s a great golf course and I’ve heard really good things about it.

“It’s like a Links course and there’s some roll in the ball as well, which makes it quite exciting.”

It will be his first taste of competitive action since late November, but the Liverpool player is confident he can succeed.

He added: “I feel good, I’m a little rusty. I haven’t done anything since the Dubai World Championship. But I needed a break because last year things got on top of me a little bit.

“Apart from the win, it wasn’t a great year at all so I felt that I needed to get away from it a little bit, clear my mind, come back with a refreshed attitude and I certainly feel that I’ve got that here.”

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