Paul McGinley will attempt a golfing comeback worthy of Tiger Woods in Morocco on Thursday.
But while Woods bids to rebuild his shattered reputation, McGinley is fighting to keep his career on life support following an agonising, sixth operation on his left knee at the end of last season.
Set to play for the first time for 139 days in the Hassan Trophy in Rabat and not quite ready to begin a new career in course design, McGinley confessed: “It’s nice to be back, but it’s been a long haul. The knee is disintegrating, it’s getting weaker structurally and I’ve got to be aware of that – I’ve got to work around it.”
The three-time Ryder Cup hero, 43, wants to extend his career for as long as possible so that he will be looked upon as a viable candidate for the 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy in Scotland.
But with virtually no cartilage remaining in his knee, he will have to cut back drastically on his practice and playing regime or risk ending his career before time.
He said: “I’m a hard-worker. I love to get onto that range and I can’t wait to hit golf balls and to get out on the golf course.
“But I’ve got to hold myself back. I’ve got to be very disciplined this time because as I get older, it becomes a lot more difficult to come back.
“I’ll never again be able to practice with the intensity I used to. I’ve got to rejig my whole approach if I am to have longevity in the game, which I want to have.
“I’m going to have to change my approach to my playing schedule, practice, everything. You won’t see me playing four, five or six tournaments in a row anymore.”
McGinley had the worst season of his 18-year career last year when he finished 104th in the Race to Dubai.
After going under the knife at the end of November, he only played his first social rounds of golf at Sunningdale at the end of last week.
Competing for more Ryder Cup honours is “miles off” his radar right now and his goal is simply to get back to full fitness and find a way of prolonging his career.
He revealed: “I’ve only played two rounds of golf but I treated them very competitively, as I would if I was playing in tournament week.
“I was fine afterwards and it was a good test for me. If I’d had twinges last week, I wouldn’t have come here but there was no reaction.”
McGinley was tied for fourth in the Hassan Trophy in 2008 and believes the flat courses that will be used for the pro-am format this week will not be too demanding on his knee.
As for the Ryder Cup qualifying race, he confessed that it’s not a priority right now.
He said: “The Ryder Cup? That’s so far away. I’m miles behind. I’m running my own race. I’m not running against anyone else at this stage.
“The ambition is to stay healthy, to have my knee stronger next week in Malaga than it is this week and to have longevity in my career. They’re my two goals.”
Darren Clarke, Shane Lowry, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin and Michael Hoey complete a seven-strong Irish challenge.