Darren Clarke needs a great short game week to win the Open. Picture Stuart Adams /www.golffile.ie Darren Clarke reckons his short game holds the key to Open glory this week.

The Dungannon veteran, 42, is bracing himself to battle winds gusting over 35 mph at Royal St George’s.

But while he firmly believes he still has the links game to win a Claret Jug, he knows he must chip and putt like never before if he is have a chance of breaking his major duck.

After a dawn start to practice with Rory McIlroy, Clarke said: “Everyone is going to miss greens around this golf course and especially with the breeze. So you know you’re going to have to up and down it very well and the greens are undulating to say the least so it’s going to be tough.

“It’s a good tee shot and a good second shot golf course but I hear it’s supposed to gust to 35mph on Sunday.

“It’s going to be tough but that’s what links golf is all about, we’re not supposed to play in t-shirts in links golf, are we?

“It’s very, very tough and to compete and contend this week, not only are you going to have to play well but you’re going to have to putt very well.”

Clarke’s biggest weakness is his erratic putting but he still has high hopes that he can have a good week at the right time.

He said: “My own game is okay. Tee to green it’s very good put I’m not putting very well so we’ll see. I might hole some this week.

“My feel just isn’t there at the minute, at least it hasn’t been for the last couple of days. But it could be there tomorrow morning.”

Clarke revels in the wind and he was pleased to earn a crisp £20 as he teamed up with McIlroy to beat South African major winners Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel in a mini match yesterday.

And while stablemates McIlroy and Lee Westwood are the men to beat, he’s kept a close eye on his rivals in practice and believes it’s helped his game.

He said: “I’ve been pretty lucky because I played with Lee yesterday and he’s playing great and I’ve played with Rory today and he’s playing great too. So it’s been good.”

As for claims that McIlroy hits it too high to contend in strong winds, Clarke shook his head.

He said: “Rory had no problem hitting it low today, believe me. He’s fine. He’s playing lovely. He’s got the ball under control and he’s playing great.”