Clarke wants the eye of the Tiger

By Brian Keogh

Darren Clarke played with the King of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur this week.

But his big ambition is to get back to his best and take on the King of golf himself - Tiger Woods.

Clarke said: "No matter what sport it is, you always want to compete against the best and beat the best.

"He is the best, and we are all trying to beat him. If you don't want to try and do that then don't go and play."

Two-time World Golf Championship winner Clarke is the only player apart from Woods who has won more than one WGC title.

And as he prepared to tee it up in the Maybank Malaysian Open, the Ulsterman revealed that Woods' incredible recent form is inspiring him to get back to the top of the game.

Clarke beat Woods 4&3 in the Accenture Match Play final eight years ago and after failing to make the top 64 in the world this year, he tortured himself by watching every minute of Woods' 15th WGC victory in Tucson.

A lowly 242nd in the world, Clarke explained: "I was putting myself through it. I was making sure I watched it for that reason.

"I wanted to be there and obviously haven’t played well enough to be there.

"But I was watching it for two reasons, for my interest in Tiger and also watching every shot as I know the golf course and I want to be there playing and I am not at the moment."

Clarke finished 21st in the Indonesia Open three weeks ago but knows that he has a long way to go to get back to the kind of form that will challenge the "incredible" Woods.

He added: "Tiger sets the standard for all the rest of us. That's why you see the guys working so hard and practising to try and catch up with the standard he has set and keeps on setting.

"It is incredible how he is playing at the moment. Even when he hits his poor shots he is so mentally stronger than anybody else he just gets on with things and gets the job done.

"That's the incredible thing - he keeps going. He did that against JB Holmes and he just steps up when he needs to. It is incredible."

Clarke, 39, has played two Malaysian Opens at Saujana, finishing tied 27th last term behind winner Peter Hedblom.

But he reckons that new venue Kota Permai is even better.

He said: "There are lots of chances, the greens are obviously grainy but the course is very good. Lot of chances but a lot of water and that will come into play as well."

As for his Pro-Am meeting with the King of Malaysia, which included a mid-round picnic of "royal nibbles" on a gold tablecloth, Clarke was impressed.

He said: "I was very privileged to play with the King. He is pretty good - very relaxed and laid back - and we had a good morning."

A refreshed Rory McIlroy is also in Kuala Lumpur alongside Irish hopefuls Damien McGrane, Paul McGinley, Peter Lawrie, Gary Murphy and Graeme McDowell.

With the top 10 in the European Order of Merit qualifying for the WGC - CA Championship in Miami later this month, 14th ranked McGrane needs to finish sixth at worst to make it.

Ranked 20th starting the week, McDowell must finish in the top-two to make it to Miami from 20-23 March.