Clarke desperate to kickstart Ryder year with win

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By Jason Humphries

EAST LONDON, South Africa (Reuters) - Briton Darren Clarke wants to use this week's Africa Open as a springboard to regain his Ryder Cup place.

Clarke failed to make the team when Europe lost to the U.S. in Kentucky in 2008 and is keen to play in the biennial event at the Celtic Manor course in Wales in October.

"I missed it the last time when I thought I had a good chance and I desperately want to get back on the team again," the 41-year-old from Northern Ireland told reporters on the eve of Thursday's opening round at East London Golf Club.

"I am playing here so I can get off to a good start this year. I like the golf course, which is pretty obvious after last year, and I want to get this season off to a fast start."

Clarke, who has played in the Ryder Cup five times, finished second to South Africa's Retief Goosen in the 2009 Africa Open.

"This year I just want to get back in the winners' circle again," he said. "I didn't win at all last year and I had a pretty poor year so I want to get back to winning ways."

Clarke, ranked 114th in the world, has not landed a trophy since winning the KLM Open in Netherlands in 2008.

He believes the wind which has been buffeting East London will be a help.

"I like the wind, it is what I am used to back home," said Clarke. "The whole course is in good shape.

"There has been an improvement in the greens. Last year was the first tournament after they had been relaid and I think this year there is a lot more grass on them."

On Thursday Clarke will play alongside South Africa's Charl Schwartzel, the world number 66 and the highest-ranked golfer in the field.

The Africa Open is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and South Africa's Sunshine Tour.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)