Golf: Rocca must start fast in Cup campaign

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THE ITALIAN Costantino Rocca makes his debut in the Madeira Island Open, which starts tomorrow, 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.

"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 Rocca, 27th in the Ryder Cup standings.

"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. 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."

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, Andrew Coltart and Germany's Alex Cejka, all in qualifying top-10 places, come under further scrutiny from the captain, Mark James, who goes for a second win in this event after success in 1993.

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 the tour.