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Rafferty returns after 2 years of injury

Injury-plagued Ronan Rafferty, European number one in 1989, makes his comeback in the Portuguese Open on Thursday after nearly two years in the wilderness.

The 36-year-old Northern Irishman, who began his pro career at the age of 17, has had thumb and wrist problems since early 1998. He eventually underwent surgery in Australia.

Now Rafferty has to rehabilitate. "It will be like starting out all over again," he said at Penina before tackling his first European Tour event since the European Grand Prix in June 1998.

"It was a long, long time before anyone could discover what was wrong. It wasn't until I was on holiday in Australia last February that something positive was done.

"While I was in Australia it seemed sensible to seek out the sporting injuries experts there. They told me they could operate and it would then be five to seven months recovery.

"Two bones had joined together because of a chipped bone I'd damaged some time in the last 10 years. They had to be operated on and I also had a tendon removed.

"You are fearful when somebody takes the knife to you but I've made a complete recovery.

"I began playing again last July and I've played in three tournaments at the end of the year and beginning of this in Morocco, Hong Kong and Mauritius.

"That was the first test and now playing my first European Tour event is the second test."

While he has been recuperating, course architect Rafferty has tramped many miles discovering how some of Britain's top links courses were designed to help him in his other career.

"Playing is my aim at the moment," said Rafferty. "It's been nice pursuing other interests but now I want to get back to work."

The Irishman will be up against an old Ryder Cup colleague in Ian Woosnam who has also had to rebuild his career.

Back problems have led to a deterioration in the former U.S. Masters champion's swing and he has sought the help of Lee Westwood's coach Peter Cowen.


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