Darren Clarke plans busy 2017 in preparation for Champions Tour debut

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Clarke seeks to regain competitive edge

Beaten Europe Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke will play a lengthy European Tour schedule next year in preparation for his Senior Tour debut in 2018.

Clarke, 48, will be eligible for the lucrative Champions Tour in the US when he turns 50 in August 2018 and he hopes to "hit the ground running".

"I'm 48 now so it's not too long until the Seniors Tour," Clarke told the BBC.

"When I do get there, I want to be competitive. So until then I'll be playing on the European Tour."

By dint of his 2011 Open win, Clarke will be assured of number of starts on the Champions Tour and he is likely to operate in a similar fashion to Miguel Angel Jimenez by combining senior events in the US with regular European Tour outings.

With his focus almost exclusively on preparations for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, Clarke competed in only 11 European Tour events this year, with his best performance a share of 30th at the Open Championship.

Darren Clarke with the Open trophy in 2011
Darren Clarke has struggled with his game since winning the Open in 2011

Clarke 169th in this year's Race to Dubai

Earnings of just over 85,000 Euro left Clarke down in 169th spot in the Race to Dubai standings although his European Tour card remains secure thanks to his emotional win at Royal St George's five years ago.

With his Ryder Cup commitments now over, Clarke is determined to at least attempt to regain some of the form which has helped him accumulate 15 career wins, including World Golf Championship triumphs in 2000 and 2003.

"I want to get back to playing again. The last couple of years have been taken up with the Ryder Cup.

"The golf swing is alien to me at the moment and the timing is not there.

"But you get sharper playing in tournaments and I need to get myself back into that. I still have a burning desire to compete."

The Northern Irishman will begin his 2017 campaign at the South African Open in the second week of January before competing in two legs of the middle east swing in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

A globe-trotting start to the season continues with the Maybank Championship in Malaysia in early February before he returns to South Africa for a two-week stint at the Joburg Open and Tshwane Open.

Clarke impressed with Royal Portrush course changes

Clarke was speaking at Royal Portrush after surveying some of the course changes being made for the Open's return to the Northern Ireland venue in 2019.

The 2011 champion believes the course alterations being made by the R&A in conjunction with course architect Martin Ebert are "sensational".

"It already was an unbelievable golf course and they have just made it better," added Clarke.

"It has probably made the golf course maybe one and a half to two shots shots more difficult than it was before."

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