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Phil Tataurangi taking 2005 to recover from injury

Phil Tataurangi, whose golf career was stymied by injury just as he was becoming a significant player on the United States PGA Tour, has decided to take most of this year off to give himself the best chance possible to return to that level.

The 33-year-old won the Invensys Classic at Las Vegas in 2002 and started the following year in fine form before being sidelined after 11 events by a back injury.

Despite an operation and intensive physiotherapy, he has never fully recovered. He made only one cut in eight starts in the US last season and struggled in two Australian events at the end of the year.

"The fact is my back is never going to be perfect again. I now realise that it was not just a matter of getting the back stronger and going back to play," Tataurangi said.

"I've talked at length with my medical team both here and in the US and with my coach, John Griffin.

"I am going back to my rehabilitation routine. I'll be working with a bio-mechanist to focus mainly on muscle patterning and firing my neural senses. I will then be making small changes to my swing that will ensure the recovery is effective.

"It's been frustrating for sure because I worked very hard since surgery on my rehabilitation. But if I am to make a successful return to the game at the highest level, then I need to take one step back if I am to go two steps forward in the long term."

Tataurangi is able to defer his medical exemption on the PGA Tour until the 2006 season. He is not sure when he will return to competitive golf, but it is likely to be next summer.

Tataurangi said yesterday that his decision to take a break should be seen as a positive move, though he admitted he had considered the worst-case scenario of having to give up competitive golf.

"Most definitely," he said. "But hopefully I've pulled myself up from butting my head against a brick wall before it is too late.

"I think I've still got a pretty good body and I've got a great opportunity to put myself back where I was.

"It's not only for my golf game that I'm taking the break. I want to be an active husband and father and I want to have a good life going forward."

Tataurangi and wife Melanie have two children under five, Kahurangi and Talia, and live for much of the year in Houston, Texas.

It is a tribute to his resilience that Tataurangi can talk so positively about his future after the chapter of illness and injuries he has endured.

He suffered from nephritis as a child and took up golf rather than the rugby of his father, Teroi, a star of the Auckland backline in the 1960s, to avoid further damage to his kidneys.

Growing up in Waikato, he was a New Zealand senior representative at 16, but battled back trouble in his teens before being the leading player in the New Zealand team who won the Eisenhower Trophy in 1992.

Since winning his card on the US Tour he has suffered a neck injury and in 2001 had surgery to correct a heart malfunction.

Tataurangi was in Waikato amateur teams with Michael Long, Steve Alker and David Smail. Long and Smail have won New Zealand Opens and that title remains one of his high priority.


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