Darren Clarke hopes new fitness regime will boost form

Darren Clarke is hoping a new fitness regime, which has led to him losing a stone and a half since Christmas, can help kick-start a return to form.

"I've been doing everything right and I've been in the gym working hard," said the reigning Open Champion, 43.

"I'm not eating all the rubbish I was or partaking in alcoholic beverages."

A slimmed-down Clarke was at Royal Portrush on Wednesday to give pointers to European Tour officials on this year's Irish Open venue.

On Tuesday, Clarke spent an evening working out at the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland at Jordanstown under the watchful eyes of his recently-appointed fitness trainer Jonny Bloomfield and Professor Eric Wallace.

And Clarke's coach Peter Cowan will also travel to Portrush later this week to run his eye over the Open champion's swing in a session which will also be attended by Bloomfield and Wallace.

"Jonny has been working me really hard and not letting me get away with anything," added Clarke.

"I had gotten too big and, if I want to be properly competitive, I had to get myself back into shape.

"My form hasn't been great, although I could have said the same about this time last year."

Clarke's 2012 changes have included a new caddie, Ian Woosnam's former bagman Phil 'Wobbly' Morbey.

He takes over from John Mulrooney, who carried the Dungannon man's bag at Sandwich when he won the Open last July.

"John and I had been trying really, really hard and it just wasn't quite working," said Clarke..

"It was time to part our ways but we parted on good terms.

"I've worked with Wobbly before. He's won at Augusta, with Woosie, and has been a friend of mine for a very, very long time."

Clarke, who has slipped to 54th in the latest world rankings (a drop of 23 places since his Open triumph) will travel to America with his new caddie for next week's Accenture World Match Play, his first event since missing the cut at the Abu Dhabi Championship in late January.

European Tour official Miguel Vidaor, who will be the Irish Open's tournament director, praised Clarke for "giving us some of his valuable time" at the world-famous Dunluce course at Portrush.

"Darren knows the course better than anybody and we really appreciate his input," said Vidaor.

"This is one of the best golf courses in the world. It's an amazing bit of land."

Clarke told the European Tour official that the "course doesn't need that much tweaking".

"It just will need thick rough in certain areas where the guys will take things on," added Clarke, who described Vidaor as "one of our best tournament directors".

"If the guys get it right, great, but if they get in wrong they are going to struggle to find the green from those sorts of places."