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Els: Clarke could come good

Ernie Els has named his dark horse for The Open next week - defending champion Darren Clarke.

The Northern Irishman may have made only one halfway cut all season, but Els said: "That's one place where he's comfortable.

"I know he's struggling with his game, (but) I know he's not that far off. He's got that great ball flight and if he gets that same talk he had last year (from American sports psychologist Bob Rotella) who knows? That could just swing things."

The 42-year-old South African hopes to be a contender himself, of course, on the course where he was joint second behind Tom Lehman in 1996 and joint third behind David Duval in 2001.

He won at Muirfield 12 months later, but a decade has now gone by without him adding to his three majors.

Anyone not following his career in that time might have thought he had fallen on hard times given that he arrived in Inverness on Easyjet - the "Big Easy" on Easyjet indeed.

"The boys are all in shock about that," he said. The explanation, however, was that his private jet is now back in the States.

Els threatened to end his barren spell at the US Open last month. A disappointing finish dropped him to ninth, but his play for most of the week reminded him of his prime years.

"There were times I doubted I could get back there, but I really felt like my old self and that's the positive I took out of it," he said.

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