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Improved form, not ranking, the focus for Oosthuizen

Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa hits from a sand trap on the second hole during second round play in the 2013 Masters golf tournament at th
Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa hits from a sand trap on the second hole during second round play in the 2013 Masters golf tournament at th

(Reuters) - World number seven Louis Oosthuizen may be the highest-ranked player at this week's Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas but the South African says he would happily trade that lofty status for better form.

The former British Open champion clinched his sixth European Tour title at the Volvo Golf Champions in his homeland in January but since then he has mainly struggled with his game while competing across the globe.

"It's been a bit of a struggle," Oosthuizen told reporters while preparing for Thursday's opening round at the TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas.

"I'm not swinging the way I want to and just not getting the results I want to but the last few weeks I've been working on a lot of things and it feels like it's coming together.

"I felt like the last two tournaments I played I was getting better and I'm getting better results so hopefully the next three weeks something (good) can happen for me."

Oosthuizen, who has recorded just one top-10 finish in seven appearances on the 2013 PGA Tour, felt he had paid the price for not hitting his approach shots close enough to the hole.

"The times I'm making good putts, I'm shooting good numbers but the way I've been hitting the ball lately in the last few months, it puts a lot of pressure on you to go save putts," he said.

"Lately I've not been as good with second shots to the green and I'm just putting a lot of pressure on my putting. But last week I started hitting better and gave myself more birdie opportunities. I just need to convert those opportunities.

"Last week I played nicely, it was just two holes that cost me big-time," he added, referring to his tie for 19th at the elite Players Championship in Florida.

PLAYED STATUS DOWN

Oosthuizen, who shared 10th place at the Houston Open in March, played down his status as the highest-ranked player in this week's field.

"I think it's what you make of it," said the 30-year-old South African, who romped to victory by seven shots in the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews.

"You probably take more confidence out of it, going into the event. But I would rather come in a bit more in form than coming in as top-ranked player."

Also competing this week at the TPC Four Seasons Resort is Ireland's triple major champion Padraig Harrington, who relished his experience on his debut at the event last year when he tied for 15th.

"As often happens, if you like a tournament you come back the next year and I'm delighted to be back," Harrington said. "It could go down as the easiest week of the year considering that you stay on site, literally.

"I walk out of my hotel room, I'm out the door and on the putting green, I'm the on the practice range. You drive to the other tournaments.

"This has got to be the least stress of any event you could have during the year. As a regular tournament out there, this is as easy as could be for a player."

American world number 20 Jason Dufner is back to defend the title he sensationally clinched by one shot last year after sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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