Browne facing knee operation

By Brian Keogh

Knee victim Stephen Browne will go under the knife next week so he will be razor sharp in 2008.

The Dubliner, 34, will tee off his seventh season as a professional alongside Ulstermen Darren Clarke, Michael Hoey and Gareth Maybin and Glasson’s Colm Moriarty in this week’s Joburg Open.

But Browne has a big date with top surgeon Ray Moran on his return that he hopes will cure his knee problems and allow him to swing without fear for the first time in years.

Browne said: “I have had cartilage problems with my left knee for a while now and I have decided to have it operated on when I get back from South Africa.

“Over Christmas it hit me again and for a couple of days I wasn't able to climb the stairs or even walk.

“It is so temperamental that I can't predict when it is going to go, so it is something I just had to take care of.

“Over Christmas I literally couldn't walk up the stairs. I could jar my knee doing anything and when that is going on you are not quite as confident about swinging a club as you should be.

“Ernie Els had the problem and so did Paul (McGinley) for a few years. Even Tiger has had issues in that area.

“You have to have 100 percent confidence in that weight transference. If you have to hit a hard one, you hit a hard one, so you are not backing off at the last second.

“As we all know, that is the worst thing you can do in golf. So it would be nice to have that confidence back where I feel I can go for it.”

Moran successfully operated on Ryder Cup star Paul McGinley in May 2006, removing a cyst and a floating piece of bone that threatened to derail the Dubliner’s career.

And if Moran is good enough for McGinley, he’s good enough for Browne, who is determined to win back his European Tour card this term.

Browne added: “It is a cartilage tear, which is a tricky injury to operate on. But Ray Moran is the best in the business though he did tell me that it's the one part of the body that God didn't actually do a great job on.

“The cartilage doesn't heal itself so he is going to repair it and there is a very good chance it will be a hell of a lot better afterwards

“With cartilage, there is no guarantee that it will be perfect, but it will be better and that's good enough for me.”

Browne expects to be out of action for at least three weeks following the operation.

But with serious question marks over the Challenge Tour’s traditional Latin American swing and civil unrest in Kenya, which hosts the Kenya Open in March, the former bank official could not have picked a better time to head for the operating theatre.

The Tour de las Americas is struggling to put together its 2008 schedule and it appears unlikely that there will be more than two co-sanctioned events with the Challenge Tour.

He said: “I am keen to get going but there is a fair gap in the schedule at the moment anyway. So it’s a good time to have this operation.

“There aren't many events on the main tour that I can get into over the next while and the Challenge Tour's first confirmed tournament isn't until Kenya in March and that has to be looking doubtful now.

“The Latin American events are also looking doubtful now as well and I hear there may only be two in Argentina in April before we get busy again in May.

“Once I get the knee right I will be able to practice more and work a bit harder in the gym. So it will be great to have a clean bill of health and enter the season for the first time in a good few years feeling good physically.”

While he failed to earn his European Tour card at last year’s Qualifying School, Browne is keen to continue his solid end of season form.

Looking ahead with confidence, Browne explained: “The last six months have been great for me golf-wise so if I can keep that up, no matter where I am playing, I am confident that things will work out.

“I have been really happy with the progress I have made since decided to go back to Brendan McDaid as my coach. For a while I was a bit confused going out on the course but I am really looking forward to the new season now.

“For the last six months I was in contention in eight tournaments and had a run of 15 out of 20 rounds in the 60s with very few bad rounds, which is the key.

“The move to Brendan has been great and while Jimmy Ballard was a great coach, travelling to Florida to see him was the problem.

“Now I can practice in my weeks off rather than having to travel, which is super. And getting my knee sorted with be fantastic.”