GOLF: Torrance forced to miss French Open

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The Independent Online
CONTINUING INJURY worries forced Sam Torrance, the defending champion, to withdraw from the French Open in Bordeaux yesterday.

Back, rib and neck problems, for which he is undergoing treatment, have meant that the Scot will now miss his third tournament this year. Torrance wants to make his ninth Ryder Cup appearance in September but his problems have dropped him from 14th to 40th in the qualifying table.

After problems in South Africa and Australia at the start of the season, Torrance took five weeks off for medical attention. He has made four appearances since his return, missing the cut in three and finishing 59th in the Turespana Masters.

Torrance said the main problem was a "springing" rib and damaged vertebrae, which, at first, he thought came from an old injury caused by lifting his daughter into a pushchair before the 1995 Italian Open - which he won.

But now the Scot feels the problem may have started six years ago when he collided with a plant pot and broke his sternum while staying at The Belfry during English Open week.

"I was given the option of an operation last week, where you tie the rib to stop it popping out but I'd rather sort it out through exercising and strengthening," he said. "In another month it should be a lot better. It's frustrating because otherwise I couldn't be in better shape. But the main part of the season is still to come. I can still fulfil my dream of making the Ryder Cup team again and I'm not panicking yet."

In Evian, France, Claire Duffy lead the British challenge on 71 after yesterday's blustery opening round of the Royal Marie-Claire Open. In the first event of the European season, the 33-year-old, who has never won on the tour, finished a shot behind the joint leaders Marina Arruti, from Spain, and the German Esther Poburski.

The former Curtis Cup team-mates Myra Murray and Kirsty Taylor, on 72, were the next best Britons, but it was a disappointing Tour debut for Cheshire's Elaine Ratcliffe. The two-time Curtis Cup player finished down the field on 76.

The incentive for the winner, in addition to the pounds 7,500 cheque, is a place in the pounds 689,000 Evian Masters, the richest women's event in Europe, at the same venue next month.

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