From Brian Keogh in Pittsburgh
Darren Clarke is heading for 'major' trouble after crashing out of the world's top 100 .
But pal and Ryder Cup team mate David Howell is convinced that he can battle his way back.
The Ulsterman, 38, has slipped to 106th in the World Golf Rankings after missing his sixth cut of the season in Austria last week.
And while he's assured of his place in the Open and the US PGA thanks to an exemption for 2006 Ryder Cup players, he needs to bounce back quickly to qualify for the 2008 Majors.
But that's something that Howell, his regular practice partner at exclusive Queenwood in London, believes is well within his powers.
Howell said: "He’ll be back, definitely. We all know what he’s been through too but he'll find a way.
"He just needs to get back playing well. I don’t know how many tournaments he’s been playing but he’ll get back, I’ve no doubt about that."
Clarke qualified for the Masters in April thanks to his position in the world's top 50 at the end of last year.
But he has fallen off the face of the planet since then and will have to find form quickly to avoid missing all the majors next season.
Following the death of his wife Heather last August, Clarke has played just 14 events, missing the cut eight times and withdrawing early from another two.
The withdrawals were caused by a hamstring injury he picked up playing football with his sons Conor and Tyrone.
And while the knock also forced him to pull out before the start of the Irish Open last month, his bad luck didn't end there.
Just days before the BMW PGA at Wentworth, he flipped an off-road buggy when playing with his kids and narrowing avoided serious injury.
Sporting a bruised right hand, he turned up at Wentworth but missed the cut there before failing to some through the US Open qualifier at Walton Heath.
His first task is to get himself inside the top 144 on the PGA Tour money list after the Barclays Classic or risk elimination from the FedEx Cup series in the US and the chance of a $10 million pay-off.
And to do that he has decided to skip the Smurfit European Open at the K Club and added the Buick Open and Tiger Woods' AT&T National to his schedule over the next few weeks.