Clarke battling his demons

Clarke battling his demons

Darren Clarke confessed that frustration will be his No 1 enemy when he make his major championship return this week.

The fiery Ulsterman, 40, knows he can’t afford to blow his top when he takes on fearsome Bethpage Black.

With five missed cuts from 10 starts this season, he confessed: “I hit the ball well enough in practice, but things aren't happening for me on the course.

“It's not for the want of trying that I'm not getting the scores, but I mustn't get too frustrated.”

Putting has been Clarke's achilles heel for most of his career and mental coach Bob Rotella has tried to get the Ulsterman to go easier on himself.

He confessed: "I’ve probably over-stepped the limit. I’ve probably practiced too much, working, working, working all the time. Which is one of the things I am talking to him about (Dr Bob Rotella) because if I want to perform so much, I’m working too hard to try and do it.

"He says just go and play and let the results happen themselves. He says you are forcing it too much again and he tells me all the time because he knows me. Because I want to play so well I push myself into a corner all the time."

"Being 40 now I should know better. But it’s because I want to play so well, I’m pushing myself too hard. Sometimes other people looking from the outside can see it better than you can see it better than yourself because I am doing all the things you need to do to play well and it’s not happening.

"So you have got to back off a little bit and spend more time on chipping and putting as opposed to doing anything else."

Clarke tied for 24th behind Tiger Woods at Bethpage in 2002 and hasn’t played in a US Open since he finished 56th at Winged Foot three years ago

But he made sure he will start the week in a good frame of mind by getting to the US last Friday before teeing up at America’s top course Pine Valley.

He said: “Hopefully it will put me in the right frame of mind to compete at Bethpage given that I've been having too many weekends off for my liking this season.”

Clarke has played in just four majors since he wife Heather lost her battle with breast cancer in 2006.

His best finish is a share of 42nd in the 2007 US PGA at Southern Hills but he’s massively popular with US fans and can expect a hero’s welcome from the New York crowd.