Clarke looks to kickstart 2011 season with strong showing in Africa Open

darren clarke
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Darren Clarke has a history of performing well in early-season events in South Africa.
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PA Sport

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Darren Clarke is desperate for his career to get back on the right track in 2011 and is hoping this week's Africa Open will be the place where he turns around his fortunes.

The 42-year-old from Northern Ireland is part of a strong field assembled for the first event on the 2011 calendar for both the European Tour and southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour, with high-profile South Africans Charl Schwartzel, who is the defending champion, Louis Oosthuizen and Retief Goosen also competing.

Clarke is currently on a two-year winless streak, having last tasted success at the 2008 KLM Open, but there has been plenty of promise over the last two seasons.

"It's been two years since I won, but I am determined to break back and I hope the Africa Open will give me the kind of kickstart it did in 2009,” said Clarke. "It's always great to start the season with a solid result and I'm looking forward to getting on the right track in East London."

His reference to 2009 coincides with his second-place finish that year after pushing eventual winner Goosen all the way over the closing holes when the tournament was not yet part of the European Tour.

"I have enjoyed starting my season with the Africa Open the last two years,” Clarke said. "In 2009 I had a pretty good result and last year's Africa Open sparked a return to form for me, so I'm really looking forward to playing in East London.

"I'm hitting the ball as well as ever but just not scoring as well as I should be,” he explained. “My consistency is getting better and I've got to keep working on that."

Goosen ended 2010 on a high after finishing second to the country's No. 1 golfer Ernie Els at the South African Open in Durban.

"I want to get back in the winner's circle again," he said. "I came close a couple of times but didn't win at all last year. It was a consistent year and I had a chance to win quite a few tournaments, but I struggled to put together four good rounds."

Oosthuizen, who won the British Open at St Andrews, will be making his debut in the tournament.

"I've never played in the Africa Open, so I'm really looking forward to it,” he said. "And the conditions are likely to be windy, which I like. I played the East London Golf Club course as an amateur, so I don't remember too much about it."

"But it will be nice for me to spend another week playing at home in South Africa before I start travelling."