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Mark James returns to golf

After a nine-month battle against testicular cancer, losing Ryder Cup captain Mark James returns to golf this week thinking he's been lucky.

James plays in the European PGA Tour's flagship event, the Volvo Championship at Wentworth, after only five weeks of physical training, a month of hitting balls and only two practice rounds since winning his fight against cancer.

``I think I've been lucky,'' said Europe's controversial captain in the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline, Mass., who wrote a book about the event which provided some angry comments from players on both sides.

James criticized American Tom Lehman for leading the charge of the 17th green by the U.S. team after Justin Leonard sank a 40-foot putt in his match against Jose Maria Olazabal, who still had to putt.

Lehman replied by accusing James of ``dragging the Ryder Cup through the muck.''

James, 47, said he first began to feel badly at a tournament in Scotland last August, then at the German Masters early in September.

``I had to sit down between every shot,'' he said. ``I could not stand and walk to the green. So I had to sit down. It wasn't right.''

He admitted he was at a low ebb during the time it took to diagnose his cancer.

``At first we felt the chances of recovery might be 60-65 percent because it was felt the cancer might have come from another tumor on another organ,'' James said.

``Then I had a biopsy and found out what it was. The consultant said: 'This is what the treatment is and you've got a 90 percent chance.'

``And then, everything looks more optimistic.''

James said he was in good shape, probably as strong physically as before he became ill.

``It doesn't seem to have been too debilitating,'' he said. ``You can't be certain but my stamina seems reasonable.''

James said he lost both his practice rounds.

``One was against Gordon J. Brand's 13-year-old daughter Lizzy,'' he said. ``She's a good player. She plays off 23 (handicap) and beat me 2 and 1.

``The other game was against a friend of mine named Lucky. Unfortunately, he was.''

James said he was uncertain about his future.

``All I know is that for now I'm OK, but these things can reappear, which is why you go back for scans every few months for a couple of years,'' he said.

``So I think to use the term 'cured' or completely recovered is possibly inappropriate.''


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