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Huston looking for title defence after injury

After a pesky foot injury led to a slump, John Huston returns to a familiar, friendly course.

Nursing the nagging injury, Huston has played in just six tournaments since April. He made the cut in one and hasn't played a PGA Tour event since mid-August.

But he's back in central Mississippi to defend his title in the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, which begins Thursday at the par-72, 7,199-yard Annandale Golf Club.

``It's always good to come back to a place where you've had success,'' Huston said Wednesday.

Also in the field are major title winners David Duval, Corey Pavin and Paul Azinger.

Huston's most recent Tour victory came when the 16-year veteran erased a two-stroke deficit over his final four holes, birdied three of those and finished at 20-under 268, one stroke ahead of Brenden Pappas.

``I drove the ball really well all week last (year) and played really well the first two days,'' Huston said. ``Then, I just kept driving the ball and putting myself in good position for the weekend. I probably could have shot a lot lower, but I was certainly happy with the way it turned out.''

Huston's best finish this year came in late April, when he was third in the Shell Houston Open.

But then he developed the problem just beneath the big toe on his right foot, and the ailment led to a summer's worth of trouble.

He missed two cuts in May, then took nearly two months off before the British Open in July, but failed to make the cut there.

In the only tournament he finished since April, Huston was 69th in The International. After missing the cut at the PGA Championship last month, he took six weeks off before his return to Annandale, and is 73rd in the world rankings and 87th on the money list.

``I took a long break, hoping it would help,'' Huston said. ``It makes it tough to play when I'm limping around, which starts affecting everything else -- knee, hip, shoulder, neck.

``It feels better now. I just feel a lot older this year for some reason,'' the 43-year-old Huston added.

Duval is looking to recapture his form of 2001, when he won the British Open. The 13-time winner missed the cut in Las Vegas last October and didn't play again until the U.S. Open.

Returning from back and shoulder injuries that hindered his swing and tempered his confidence, Duval made the cut at the Deutche Bank Championship and the Bell Canadian Open earlier this month, but failed to advance at the 84 Lumber Classic last weekend.

``If you play golf, you struggle,'' Duval said. ``There is no way around it. The depth of some struggles are deeper than others. It is just too hard of a game to not have problems throughout a 20-year career. I hope to not struggle like I did the last two years or so. ... But I can say pretty confidently that I will play bad again. If you play the game, you are going to play bad. There is just no way around it.''

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