Defending champion Fraser returns to Ballantine's after freak neck injury

marcus fraser
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With only limited pratice time so far this season, MArcus Fraser has tempered his expectations for his title defense this week.
By
PA Sport

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Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 | 1:14 p.m.

Marcus Fraser will defend his title at the Ballantine's Championship this week just happy still to be playing.

The 32-year-old Australian suffered a freak injury while playing with his son in December and is only now making a return to competitive action.

2011 BALLANTINE'S CHAMPIONSHIP

With four of the world's top 20 players on hand, this edition of the Ballantine's Championship features its strongest field ever.

"I picked up my son over my head and felt something go in my neck last December," Fraser said. "I thought nothing of it and continued to play golf, which I probably shouldn't have, and over Christmas, it just deteriorated. I was referred to a surgeon who did a MRI scan on me and it showed that the disc had prolapsed.

"It just kept going downhill and there were a couple of days where I couldn't walk and lost all the feeling in my right hand,” he explained. “The surgeon took one look at me and said that he'll have to operate on me."

Had it not been for that operation, Fraser could eventually have lost the use of his right arm, but instead he is back to play on the course where he dominated last year.

Competing with the likes of world No. 1 Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter this week might be a stretch for Fraser, however.

"I had a week's practice before I came up," he said. "That's not really enough to compete, but it's just nice to be out there playing again and hopefully get some strength back in it pretty quick and get back to full health."

Westwood will be competing for the first time since returning to the top spot in the rankings by winning the Indonesian Masters a week ago.

"I'm delighted to be coming to the Ballantine's Championship as world No. 1," he said on his official website.

"Being top of the Official World Golf Ranking makes me feel very proud and I'm sure Korea's knowledgeable and passionate golf fans are aware of the hard work and dedication it takes to reach that position,” he added. "I'm very much looking forward to the tournament and hopefully I'll give the galleries plenty to cheer about in the coming days."

However, he will need to do much better than last year's 34th position finish if he is to consolidate his spot at the top of the rankings.