Seoul: Australia’s Marcus Fraser is relieved that he has the chance to defend his title at this week’s €2.2 million (approximately US$3.2 million) Ballantine’s Championship after a freak accident while playing with his son almost forced him into a premature retirement. Fraser, who finished second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit last season, suffered a slipped disc while carrying his son and had to struggle with continuing pain before a well-timed operation led him back on the road to recovery. “I picked up my son over my head and felt something go in my neck last December. 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,” said Fraser.“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. The surgeon took one look at me and said that he’ll have to operate on me,” added Fraser.
The decision to undergo the operation was a quick one as the thought of not being able to play golf again was too much to bear for Fraser. “If I had not had the operation, I would never have played golf again and probably would have lost the use of my right arm. I just wanted to be healthy again and it was a bit of a no-brainer to have the operation,’ said Fraser, who had contemplated quitting the game last year but reversed that decision after his wire-to-wire victory at the Ballantine’s Championship ended a seven-year winless streak.With his recovery well on track, Fraser is looking forward to compete against the elite field that includes world number one Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter of England and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee at the Blackstone Golf Club.“It’s not something that I’ve had to deal with too often, coming back to defend a title, so it’s nice when it does happen. It’s a very special week with Ballantine’s obviously being such a great sponsor of the tournament,” said Fraser.“I had a week’s practise before I came up. That’s not really enough to sort of 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,” added the Australian.
Meanwhile Korea’s Noh Seung-yul who became the youngest ever player to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit at 19 years and 204 days last season, believes that there is no better place than home to write another record.“I was quite disappointed that last year’s tournament was reduced to three rounds because I thought I had a good chance of winning it. But we’re playing at a brand new golf course this year and I hope to write a new record by becoming the first Korean winner this week,” said Noh who finished in tied-fourth, five shots behind Fraser last year. Noh, who will tee up alongside Dustin Johnson of the United States and South Africa’s Ernie Els in the opening two rounds, is determined to bounce back into form after a slow start to the season.The young Korean has started working on his swing with world renowned swing guru Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods’ former coach, in February and is confident that the results will show with his new swing changes.“Two months ago, I got together with Butch and we started making tweaks to my swing. I guess I was too eager to get everything right and as a result, I injured my finger,” said Noh“I was not able to practise for about a month. It takes time to get used to my new swing. There’ve been mistakes and my shots have become quite inconsistent. But after much practise, I feel that my swing is getting more stable and I’m more confident now,” added the Korean.The 2011 Ballantine’s Championship will once again be co-sanctioned by the European Tour, Asian Tour and Korea PGA.