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Clarke bids to hit Ryder Cup trail

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Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke is bidding to rekindle his Ryder Cup career in Johannesburg this weekend.

Clarke played better and putted with much more aplomb at East London last week than his tie for 28th place at the Africa Open suggested.

A few loose shots here and there cost Clarke dearly but that can be attributed to ring rust on the 40-year-old Ulsterman's first outing of the New Year on a tight and treacherous shot-makers course.

This week's challenge could hardly be more different. The East and West courses at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club were long enough already before being doused by torrential rain in recent days. Clarke gets good vibes on both of them after finishing tied fourth, just two strokes outside the three-man play-off on his only previous appearance at The Joburg Open in 2008, especially the East, which he describes as “fantastic, one of the best courses in South Africa”.

The popular Ulsterman tees it up on The West Course today in a show group that includes last Sunday's winner and pre-tournament favourite Charl Schwartzel, 25, of South Africa, ensuring a sizeable crowd and a good atmosphere.

Frankly, all the ingredients appear to be there for Clarke, a reasonable each-way bet at 25/1, to get in the mix.

Shane Lowry's hopes of warming-up for Abu Dhabi on The Algarve with coach Neil Manchip this week were scuppered last Saturday when their flight from snow-bound Dublin Airport to Portugal was cancelled.

So, in a quick change of plan, Clara's ‘3' Irish Open champion decided to fly out to Dubai today instead, where he'll probably run into former Irish amateur teammate Rory McIlroy on the practice facilities at Jumeirah Golf Resort, venue for last November's Dubai World Championship and available year-round to European Tour members.

All four reigning Major Champions, Stewart Cink, Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover and YE Yang are prominent among the 20 players who stay in Hawaii for this weekend's Sony Open, the first full-field event on the US PGA Tour's 2010 schedule.

Belfast Telegraph