Madeira Island Open
Madeira Island Open
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Rocca looks for kinder cut in Madeira

Italy's Costantino Rocca makes his debut in the Madeira Island Open which begins on Thursday, hoping to fight back from a December accident which marred the start of his latest Ryder Cup campaign.

Rocca cut his finger badly at the end of last year and was not able to grip a club for the start of this season. He aims to make his comeback this week after pronouncing himself fully fit again.

"I was late in starting my season and it's not been that great since I did get playing again," said the 42-year-old Italian, presently 27th on the Ryder Cup table.

"I cut my finger badly with a knife when I was trying to open a bottle of wine on December 30. It sliced a tendon and needed five stitches.

"It is better now and I need to play more so that's why I'm making my first visit to Madeira.

"It's important for my Ryder Cup chances that I start to play good now. I need some really good results, need to be hot over the next 10 tournaments to get into contention.

"If I qualify for the Ryder Cup I don't want to arrive there dead physically, so it's important to start playing well now instead of pushing myself right to qualification time."

The Italian has good reason for trying to make his fourth Cup appearance. "A lot of people have already booked for the Ryder Cup from Italy and they'll be disappointed if I don't get in," added Rocca.

Rocca is in the strongest Madeira line-up yet, with three potential Ryder Cup rookies bidding for the 816 points for first prize.

European rankings leader David Howell, fellow Briton Andrew Coltart and Germany's Alex Cejka, all currently in Cup table qualifying top-10 places, come under further scrutiny from captain Mark James, who goes for a second win in this event after success in 1993.

James said Wednesday he would not be worried about a surfeit of Cup rookies.

"I don't mind if we have a whole bunch of rookies in the team," said James. "There'll be enough experience in the side to spread among them and, anyway, our potential rookies are quick learners."

The European captain acknowledged that he has one rookie already.

Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the table but not in Madeira, is on the brink of qualifying already after victory in the Turespana Masters two weeks ago.

"Miguel will be a great asset," added James. ``He's worked very hard to make himself a consistent player and he's still improving."

The defending champion in Madeira is Sweden's Mats Lanner. His victory last year helped him regain a card after an 18-month absence from tour.