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Wednesday, 27 April 2011
Marcus Fraser  (Getty Images)
Marcus Fraser (Getty Images)
Marcus Fraser was almost unable to defend his Ballantine's Championship title this week - after a neck injury threatened to end his career.

The Australian romped to a four shot victory over compatriot Brett Rumford and Gareth Maybin on Jeju Island 12 months ago, but within months his career was in the balance.

"At the Australian Open last year, I picked up my son and lifted him over my head and felt something go in my neck," he said.

"I saw the physios at the tournament and just worked on it at the Australian Open, the PGA the following week and probably shouldn't have played.

"I kept playing and probably shouldn't have. And over Christmas it just deteriorated, I went and saw the sports physician and he referred me to a surgeon and had an MRI and it showed the disc had prolapsed.

"So then it just kept going downhill and had a couple of days where I couldn't walk and lost all the use of my right arm.

"Lost all the feeling in my right hand, and then the surgeon took one look at me and said: ‘We'll do it in two days' time'. So he operated and after that, it was pain free the next day.

"If I had not had the operation, I would never have played golf again and probably would have lost the use of my right arm. Kind of need your arm for golf.

"There was a real was a question mark if I was ever going to play golf again or good golf again. So I just wanted to be healthy again and it was a bit of a no-brainer to have the operation. It was a pretty easy decision.

"The last week of January I had the operation. I played Doral six weeks after the operation, and probably rushed it back a little bit, but still got a long way to go before it's a hundred per cent again."

Now approaching full fitness, Fraser is keen to put up a strong defence of what was his second European Tour victory.

"It's a very special week this week with Ballantine's obviously being such a great sponsor of the tournament," he added. "And had an unbelievable dinner, tournament dinner last night, and it's very quickly becoming one of the biggest tournaments on our schedule.

"So we're very fortunate that Ballantine's is a sponsor. Not only last year, being the third Ballantine's Championship, it's a very young tournament, but still very established. So it's very nice to have your name on that trophy."

Aiming to stop Fraser in his tracks is American Ryder Cup star Dustin Johnson, who will be playing in a regular European Tour event for only the second time.

"I'm really looking forward to this week - it's a great golf course," he said.

"The game right now, it's pretty good. It's getting better each week, and I'm looking forward to this week."

"I think it's important to get out and play. Obviously the European players are more - they are more travelled and more - play more events over here, and also play some in the States, too.

"I think it's important for us to come over and play a few times a year, just to get the acknowledgment and some more - you know, to come play for our fans that are overseas is very important.

"I want to obviously come out and contend. I'm obviously here to win the golf tournament.

"So hopefully on Sunday, I'm going to be around the lead and have a chance to win. But you know, it's also good to come out here and play for my fans over here that can also see other parts of my game besides just the driver."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1WESTWOOD, LeeENG18-12
2JIMÉNEZ, Miguel AngelESP18-11
3PARK, Sang-hyunKOR18-10
4JOHNSON, DustinUSA18-9
T5HONG, Soon-sangKOR18-8
T5NOREN, AlexanderSWE18-8
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