Olazabal withdraws from Dubai

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The Independent Online
Jose-Maria Olazabal, who has not played in a tournament since last September because of an arthritic foot, has now withdrawn from this week's Dubai Desert Classic.

Olazabal played in a special 18-hole challenge match with Seve Ballesteros, Colin Montgomerie and Sam Torrance in Gran Canaria last Monday.

However, after practising and playing 18 holes every day during the last week, he has decided not to make the trip to the Middle East.

"I will decide from week to week what I shall play, depending on how my foot comes along," said the 30-year-old, whose first event of the year could now be the Players' Championship in Florida in three weeks' time.

All being well, he will then play in the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta before going on to the US Masters the following week. But whether the 1994 Augusta champion even makes the trip to America now remains to be seen.

"I am still a bit lame," he commented after Monday's match. "I have to wear an orthopaedic shoe cushion that helps relieve the pain, but I still have problems. I am still far from being in competitive form."

Olazabal had surgery to shorten a big toe in January last year after limping out of the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, but it did not do the trick. It was only then that the arthritis was diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic in New York. He had been hobbling in all four major events last season, and pulled out of the Ryder Cup because he did not think he could play twice a day.

n Strong winds could not blow Tim Herron out of the lead he has held for three rounds of the pounds 870,000 Honda Classic in Coral Springs, Florida, but they helped halve his margin to three strokes heading into the final round. Britain's Nick Faldo shot a second 64 after a disappointing first- round 77 to be on 213, two adrift of compatriot Sandy Lyle, who had a third-round 67.