Darren Clarke admits trying to play like an Open champion has backfired completely over the past 12 months.

Clarke starts the defence of the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham this coming week having made only one cut all year. And he concedes his approach has let him down.

"Being Open champion hasn't been a burden by any stretch of the imagination - my own expectations have been the burden," he said. "They have always been high, but they have intensified somewhat."

The Northern Irishman went from 111th to 30th in the world when he triumphed at Sandwich, but has since fallen back to 84th.

"You'd think at the age of 43 and having played in Ryder Cups and won World Golf Championships, I'd be more understanding," he said. "Yet my desire to do more has got in the way of me playing well. I wanted to play like an Open champion and tried too hard to do it instead of just playing.

"I'd be down here (at Royal Portrush) for nine or 10 hours a day in the pouring rain and wind thinking to myself 'I've got to play better'. It hasn't quite worked.

"You don't get anywhere without practice, though, and at some stage it will pay off. I don't know when, but it will."

The oldest Open champion since Argentina's Robert de Vicenzo in 1967, Clarke must return the Claret Jug on Monday morning, but, despite the results this season, he believes he can emulate Padraig Harrington and go back-to-back at a venue where he was tied third in 2001 and joint 11th in 1996.

"I've had a wonderful time with the Claret Jug," he added. "I've had a wonderful year off the golf course and a tough one on it.

"My name is still on it and I've got a taste of winning at the ultimate level at the ultimate tournament. I know if I get myself in the same position again next weekend, I know I can do it again."