Clarke optimistic on future

By Brian Keogh

Darren Clarke is convinced that he is about to finish his disastrous 2007 season on a high.

The Ulsterman tees it up with the likes of Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and former world No 1 Greg Norman in the South African Airways Open at Pearl Valley today.

And he believes he is close to halting his alarming slide down the world rankings after a confidence boosting performance in last week's Alfred Dunhill Championship where he was 33rd.

He said: "Last week, I pointed out that the way I played from tee to green was the best I've played in probably three years.

"So I'm hoping to build on that and maybe putting a little bit better. I just want to go out and play and we'll see then how it goes."

Els is the centre of attention in his home Open after his final hole triple bogey eight handed England's John Bickerton the title at Leopard Creek last week.

Still hurting, Els confessed: "Obviously, you know what happened last week, I mean it's still difficult to kind of comprehend.

"I'm glad to be here and obviously it's difficult a little bit for myself personally after my mess-up last week to be fully focused at the moment.

"But I'm sure I'll be ready by tomorrow hopefully. This is a new week, it's the South African Open. I'm the defending champion here, so I'd love to do well."