OPEN GOLF: Darren Clarke vows to battle on to find form

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke

2011 Open champion Darren Clarke has said he will keep working hard in the hope his game turns around as he prepares for this week’s event at Royal Birkdale.

Clarke, 48, has not made a cut on the European Tour since last year’s Open Championship and he has dropped outside the top 1000 in the world rankings.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy during practice day three of The Open Championship 2017 at Royal Birkdale Golf Club

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy during practice day three of The Open Championship 2017 at Royal Birkdale Golf Club

He was forced to pullout of last week’s Scottish Open due to injury, but is fit to compete at this week’s Major which starts on Thursday.

“I’ve got to keep on working. The forecast is for a bit of wind again this week and any time we get adverse conditions at the Open, I’ve tended to enjoy that,” said Clarke who triumphed at Royal St George’s six years ago.

Clarke has been drawn with is out at 9.25am with, American Gary Woodland and amateur Harry Ellis and has an early tee-off at 9.25am.

Meanwhile, defending Open champion Henrik Stenson believes his chances of regaining possession of the Claret Jug are on the up, but only by five per cent.

Stenson cut a downbeat figure in spte of firing a final round of 68 in the Scottish Open on Sunday, the 41-year-old carding six birdies in the space of nine holes at Dundonald Links before dropping shots on the 15th and 18th.

The 41-year-old said it was “hoping for a lot” for him to emulate Padraig Harrington in winning back-to-back Open titles at Royal Birkdale, but his attitude had improved slightly by the time of his pre-championship press conference.

“The spirits might be another five per cent up compared to Sunday,” said Stenson, who won in record-breaking fashion at Royal Troon 12 months ago after a thrilling final-day duel with Phil Mickelson.

“It could have been a good finish at the Scottish Open. I lipped out for eagle on 14 to go to seven under for the round and then finished four under. I guess it was a bit of frustration on that (which came out) in one of the interviews after the round there.

“But at the same time I don’t feel like I’ve had the consistency I want to have, and to be honest I didn’t think I had that last year if I compare it to 2013 for instance.

“Even though it was the best year of my career last year, I felt it was well timed, as well. I played my best at a few events that really mattered. I’m kind of working on that, trying to get that consistency back.

“Whether it’s going to be good enough this week or not, I can’t tell you, but I couldn’t tell you how I was going to win before the week last year either. In golf, I guess you’re only a couple of good shots and picking up some nice solid feelings away from having a really good week.

“I worked hard my whole career to be able to win that championship last year and I can’t really put the pressure on myself that I’m going to win it again.

“It took a lot of chances to win that one, so I’m just going to go out there and do my best, really.”