ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates(AP) Darren Clarke is ready to get serious about his golf again.
The Northern Irishman, who has dropped to 204th in the rankings since the death of his wife in 2006, finished in the top five at both the South African Open and Johannesburg Open this season, and up next is the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, which starts Thursday.
"Last year, I was working really hard, but my head wasn't in the right place. It wasn't in a place that I could compete and things were irritating me, simple little things,'' Clarke said. "I got through a lot of it - anniversaries and stuff from last year - and it was from the middle of August onwards that I really got into a position where I wanted to play again.''
Clarke, a 10-time winner on the European Tour who struggled for must of last season, said getting better would be a gradual climb.
"I want to play and I want to get myself up as a top player again,'' he said. "I don't even know what my world ranking is, but I am desperate to get myself back there up again.''
Clarke, who last won the 2005 Taiheiyo Masters, plans to play lots of golf this year to get back to where he was before.
"After the year I had last year, I will be going wherever I can to play golf. I haven't won a tournament since Japan,'' Clarke said. "I got myself back up there, and I want to keep up doing what I am doing and I will hopefully develop the winning habits.''
Support from both fans and players, including Tiger Woods, has been a help, too.
"Tiger has been a very good friend and very, very kind to me,'' Clarke said. "Tiger and Elin also donated the money from the court case at the last Ryder Cup to the cancer charity in memory of Heather. He has been a very, very good friend.''
Clarke also spoke about his new American lady friend, Kerry Schiller.
"We were introduced through some mutual friends,'' Clarke said. "It is just normality. Having normality in your life is nice. It's good.''