The long-awaited return of Jose-Maria Olazabal has been delayed still further. The Spaniard, out of action since mid-September because of a foot injury, has withdrawn from next week's Johnnie Walker Classic in Singapore and the Heineken Classic in Perth a week later.
Olazabal's manager, Sergio Gomez, said yesterday: "Jose-Maria's foot is much better and he played 18 holes last Friday. But on Saturday his knees and back were bad. I think it's a side effect of a cold he had and so we've taken the decision to wait a little longer. It would be wrong to come back before he feels confident about his health."
Olazabal, who won the US Masters in 1994 and started having problems at the end of that season, underwent an operation 12 months ago to shorten the bone in a big toe and then was discovered to have a small tumour between two other toes on the same foot.
There was even more woe for the sponsors of next week's competition when the European No 1, Colin Montgomerie, declared himself a virtually certain non-starter because his wife is due to give birth.
Montgomerie and Olazabal may not now be seen in action until the Dubai Desert Classic in March and that could also be the first appearance this year of Seve Ballesteros, whose loss of form led to him taking a five- month break from the game after the Ryder Cup.
n The bees that attacked the US PGA Tour player Keith Fergus and his caddie during the Nortel Open in Tucson, Arizona last Saturday were the Africanised type sometimes called "killer bees", an expert has revealed. Fergus, who was practicing on the driving range about an hour after the third round, was stung 10 to 15 times. His caddie, Artie Granfield, jumped into a lake to escape bees that stung him 50 to 100 times. Two Arizona residents died in October after being stung by Africanised bees.