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Goosen returns after "totally disintegrated" disc

South Africa's Retief Goosen tees off a ball at the third hole during the first day of the International Golf Open in Pulheim near Cologne J
South Africa's Retief Goosen tees off a ball at the third hole during the first day of the International Golf Open in Pulheim near Cologne J

(Reuters) - Twice U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen will play his first tournament for nearly five months at this week's Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa after having surgery on a "totally disintegrated" disc in his back.

The 43-year-old South African, who rated his health as "about five out of 10" at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August in his penultimate event before an extensive break to repair his back, is itching to play tournament golf again.

"I'm very excited about the New Year," said Goosen who is making his comeback about six weeks ahead of schedule. "Obviously the last three years have been pretty bad.

"Last year I tried a bit of everything... injections, loads of physio, anything you could think of but nothing really helped. In the end we had no choice but to have the operation," he told the European Tour website (www.europeantour.com).

"It's been great. It's been almost five months now. I've been off painkillers and that cleans the system out a little bit. I started hitting balls, or half shots, about three weeks ago and I felt pretty good."

Goosen, who has 14 European Tour wins to his name but has not triumphed on the circuit since 2007, said he entered this week's event in Durban just before the deadline.

The 2001 and 2004 U.S. Open winner lost to compatriot Branden Grace in a playoff, which also featured Ernie Els, at the same event last year and said 2013 could be his season such is the unpredictability of golf.

"Hopefully the back will stay as good as it feels now. I just need to really work on my swing a little bit and find a bit of game. I'm not really sitting here expecting to win but you never know in this game."

(Writing by Tom Pilcher editing by Tony Jimenez)

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