Darren Clarke sounded down in the dumps about the state of his game but optimistic that his hard work might pay off in the Estoril Open de Portugal at Penha Longa.

Without a top-10 finish since the Avantha Masters more than three months ago, the 41-year old Dungannon man is frustrated by his inability to turn some decent ball-striking into lower scores.

“I’ve had a very disappointing last couple of months, but I honestly don’t feel my game is in that bad shape,” the world No 162 confessed. “I’m just not scoring well – I’m taking as many as I possibly can whenever I go out on the course.

“So it’s been very frustrating, but in terms of striking the ball, I’m very happy with what I’m doing. I just can’t seem to turn that into decent scores at the moment, but it’s not for want of trying.

“I just haven’t really been hitting it close enough to give myself a chance of holing the putts, especially with my wedges. That’s where you’ve got to be scoring, and I’m just not at the minute.

“But it’s something I’m working very hard on to try to improve, and hopefully this week we’ll start to see signs of improvement.” 

Ireland has just four players in action with Clarke and Damien McGrane joined by tour school gruaduates Simon Thornton and Gary Murphy.

Thornton and Murphy could do with a decent week, especially the Kilkenny man.

Having brilliantly earned a tour reprieve at the Q School last December, Murphy has made just two cuts from 13 starts so far this season and is 265th in the Race to Dubai.