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Last Updated: Friday, 21 December 2007, 22:31 GMT
Olazabal eyes return in January
Jose Maria Olazabal
Olazabal has struggled with injury for most of 2007
Jose Maria Olazabal hopes to return to action late next month after four months out with a form of rheumatism.

The Spaniard, 41, only started hitting balls again this week after suffering problems in his shoulders and groin.

"I was worried I was going to be out for a long time again, because of the amount of pain," said Olazabal, who endured 18 months out in the mid-1990s.

"But according to my doctor, in six weeks or so I should be able to start practising pretty much normally again."

Olazabal will be in Louisville for the defence of the Ryder Cup next year as assistant to European captain Nick Faldo.

Hope is the last thing you should lose

Jose Maria Olazabal
He has not given up hope of playing in the event, despite admitting he faces a tough battle given his lack of qualifying points.

"I have lost a lot of ground - and being realistic I won't have played for five months; whenever I start, maybe Dubai, I think it's going to be a slow start," he added.

"That's going to make it very difficult, but I've not given up hope. Hope is the last thing you should lose.

"It's tough watching. But it's not a decision I took - I was forced. It would have been different if I had said I had had enough."

This year the popular Spaniard has managed only one top-10 finish - third in the Players Championship in Florida in May - before missing the Open Championship with a knee injury and then seeing his health go downhill again.

"I've seen a lot of doctors, and they've done all kinds of tests," he added. "They know it's some kind of rheumatism. But they don't know what was caused it, and it's just a matter of treating the symptoms until they go away.

"At the moment I'm seeing a doctor in Pamplona an hour from my home - and last Friday the news was very good.

"The blood tests were good, and the swelling's pretty much gone. The next few weeks will determine how I feel."



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