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Nick Price returns to action after health scare

Two months after a health scare prompted him to take immediate action Nick Price has the chance to return to the golfing spotlight tomorrow.

Price is the first opponent for Tiger Woods as the American bids for a third successive victory in the Accenture World Match Play Championship at La Costa near San Diego.

And the 48-year-old former British Open champion is 21 pounds lighter than he was just before Christmas after a test showed him to be suffering from very high blood pressure.

"It was a wake-up call for me," commented Price, who has since cut out sugar and carbohydrates in his diet and is already showing the benefits of it on his waist-line.

The Zimbabwean, a professional for 28 years now, played only a limited schedule last season and had allowed his weight to creep up during his weeks off enjoying family life.

Price suffered blood pressure problems and heart palpitations back in the 1980s and 1990s and was prescribed beta-blockers then.

He eventually stopped taking them, however. He had experienced side-effects such as depression and bad dreams and also found they affected the adrenaline levels he considered necessary to perform at his best.

This week's tournament will be just his fourth since the British Open at Troon last year and, having slipped to 64th on the world rankings last week, he knew what that meant for La Costa.

But for Ernie Els' decision not to play, Price would have faced world number one Vijay Singh. The South African's absence, however, brings Japan's Shingo Katayama into the 64-man field and Price has to take on double defending champion Woods, seeded second.

Both are ex-world number ones, but Price said: "When you are 64th in the rankings it does not matter whether you are playing the first, second or third seed. You had better bring you're a-plus, five-star game.

"That said, it is just 18 holes and we all know that if you can get three or four early birdies it puts your opponent behind the eight ball."

Woods has been top seed every time in the five Match Plays he has appeared in and has won 20 of his 23 games, including the last 12.

Last player to beat him - in the biggest upset the event has seen - was Australian Peter O'Malley in the 2002 first round. Darren Clarke won the 2000 final against him and in the inaugural staging of the championship 12 months earlier Woods lost to eventual winner Jeff Maggert in the quarter-finals.

The Match Play is one of three individual tournaments grouped together as the World Golf Championships - and Woods has totally dominated them since their introduction six years ago.

With three victories in the NEC Invitational and three in the American Express Championship he now has the chance to complete a hat-trick of titles in all three.

The only other person to win more than one is Clarke, who captured the NEC crown in Ohio two years ago.


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