Clarke turns focus back to golf after wedding at Ballantine's Championship

Darren Clarke at the Ballantine's Championship
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Darren Clarke knows he'll be a little bit rusty at the Ballantine's Championship after spending a few weeks on the beach after his recent wedding.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 | 11:12 a.m.

Newlywed Darren Clarke hopes he can stop his slide down the world rankings at this week's Ballantine's Championship.

The 43-year-old Ulsterman, who remarried in the Bahamas two weeks ago -- six years after losing his first wife to cancer -- rose from 111th to world to 30th with his memorable victory at the British Open last July. But he hasn’t had a top-10 finish since then, and after missing the cut at the Masters earlier this month, finds himself 69th.

"It's been good to have another little break again and obviously get married again," he said Wednesday at Blackstone Golf Club. "I feel very lucky, but it is back to work again now and try to get back into my golf again.

"I've had a couple of weeks on the beach," he added. "I practiced a little bit when I was there, so I'll be a little bit rusty this week, but hopefully I'll get back into it."

Clarke is traveling with the Claret Jug and so has a constant reminder of the greatest day of his golfing life.

"It's certainly a privilege for me to bring it with me most places where I go," he added.

With world No. 3 Lee Westwood choosing not to defend the title he won by a shot over Miguel Angel Jimenez last May, the highest-ranked player in the field is No. 12 Adam Scott. The 31-year-old Australian tied for eighth at Augusta National after a closing 66 that included a hole-in-one at the 16th.

"I thought my form going into the Masters was good, but it didn't quite happen the first three days and then I managed to put it all together on Sunday," he said. "I was pleased with that finish because I probably would have been a little disappointed in my efforts and the work I had done if I did not finish so high up.

"That is why this week is so important -- to keep my form going heading into the rest of the season," Scott explained. "I've come over here to get myself in contention and see where my game is at."

Scott, a former winner of the Johnnie Walker Classic in Beijing and three Singapore Opens, added: "It's true that I've enjoyed playing in Asia over the years and I have had a certain amount of success, which is great."

England's Ian Poulter and Paul Casey are also in the field.

Poulter was seventh in the Masters and third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks earlier -- and that while he was still recovering from pneumonia -- but then came in only 29th at last week's Volvo China Open.

Casey suffered his fourth successive missed cut there and has yet to make one since returning from the dislocated shoulder he suffered snowboarding on Christmas Eve. The 34-year-old's ranking has gone from 20th to 45th in that time, but said, "Hopefully a good performance at the Ballantine's Championship will be the catalyst for a successful season."

Korean hopes are high with former PGA Champion Y.E. Yang, PGA Tour player Sang-moon Bae and K.T. Kim, a Korean who stars on the Japanese tour, all taking part.