SHANGHAI (AFP) : Darren Clarke is desperate to get back into Europe's Ryder Cup team and become a world top-50 player again now that victory in China has got him over a huge mental hurdle following his wife's death.
Clarke said his win at the 2.3-million-dollar BMW Asian Open on Sunday was the most important title of his career, and the hardest to achieve, because of the hardships since his wife, Heather, passed away from cancer in August 2006.
It was Clarke's first tournament win since her death.
"This is the very top," the Northern Irishman said when asked to compare this win with his previous 10 on the European Tour.
Now that he had finally got his breakthrough victory, Clarke said he wanted more, and a return to the Ryder Cup team that he had loved so much being a part of for a decade leading up to Heather's death.
"If anything, my win today has given me renewed vigour to carry on and keep working because I want more of this... to put the work in and get a bit out again feels good," the 39-year-old said.
Three weeks after Heather's death, Clarke performed superbly for Europe in the Ryder Cup thrashing of the United States, winning all three matches he was involved in.
But, almost inevitably, his world ranking plummetted out of the top 50 to below 200 as he tried to juggle his life on tour with his responsibilities to his sons, Tyrone and Conor.
Now, Clarke has much more hope that he will be in Europe's Ryder Cup team to play the United States in Valhalla, Kentucky, in September.
"I have given myself a bit of a boost but there is still a long way to go to qualify for the team. There is nothing that helps your confidence like winning," he said.
"My focus is to keep playing as good golf as I can and I do desperately want to be at Valhalla."
Clarke also said that being in the world's top 50 was very important as that guaranteed entry into the biggest tournaments, adding he was deeply disappointed and frustrated at not playing in the Masters earlier this month.
"I spent a long period of time in that top 50 and I have dropped down that list for obvious reasons. I have worked hard to get back in there," he said.
"The reason I practise and play and put in the time is so I can compete at the top level and I want to be back in the top 50 again."
Clarke won the Asian Open, co-sanctioned by the European and Asian tours, by one stroke over Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen after sinking a 30-foot (nine-metre) birdie putt on the final hole.
A two-stroke lead had evaporated after he bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes, which he said was partly because he began to think about his wife and sons.
Clarke dedicated his win to Tyrone and Conor, aged nine and seven, but also thanked the many fans who he did not know personally but had sent him messages of support.
"My website has been inundated with people wishing me well. It is a really nice feeling to get back into the winner's enclosure, not to prove anything, but to show their support meant an awful lot to me," he said.