VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - Two years ago Ignacio Garrido feared his career might be over so it is hardly surprising he has worn an almost permanent grin throughout this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
The Spaniard won the European Tour’s flagship event in 2003 but 10 years later was told he had glandular fever.
Garrido spent a long time bed-ridden and unable to walk but he has slowly worked his way back toward full fitness and last week’s Spanish Open at El Prat represented his competitive return after 18 months out.
“There were times when I thought I had played my last event so that’s why I keep smiling all the time,” the 43-year-old told Reuters in an interview after a closing 73 gave him a respectable two-under total of 286.
”I‘m happy because I‘m playing again. I think there is always a reason to smile.
“There are a lot of really bad things in the world. I’ve always felt privileged to do what I do and now that I’ve gone a year and a half without playing, being back here at Wentworth is a privilege.”
Garrido, who also won the German Open in 1997, completed all four rounds at El Prat and said he was pleasantly surprised by the form he had shown over the last two weeks.
“It’s great,” he added. “It makes me feel I‘m not as far away as I thought I was and maybe that all the work I’ve done in the last 20 years has been a help.”
When Garrido was first diagnosed with glandular fever he made things worse by playing golf again too soon.
”There are several degrees to that illness and I got the worst,“ he explained. ”My doctor said I should stop completely for three or four months but I only stopped for one or two weeks.
”When I felt a bit better I started to play again but I made a mistake. I went back to my doctor and he said if I didn’t stop I would make it a chronic condition.
“It lasted nine months and I couldn’t even jog or walk almost. At the beginning I was completely exhausted and had to stay in bed,” said Garrido who has lost his tour card.
“I took it little by little and started to think about what I would do with my life if I couldn’t play any more.”
Once Garrido could take the first tentative steps to returning to the practice range he was alarmed.
”The main goal was to recover physically because I lost 50 percent of my muscles,“ he said. ”My clubs felt like iron bars when I swung them so I had to go little by little.
“I felt like I’d been away 20 years when I returned last week but luckily my first round, in difficult conditions, was under par,” added Garrido, who has no world ranking as a result of his recent inactivity.
”That was very surprising to me and in these two weeks I’ve shot more under-par rounds than not so it’s been fantastic.
“I‘m not 100 percent fit but I‘m not far away so it gives me confidence that I can be back next year with pretty much 100 percent of my energy and 100 percent of my game.”
Garrido said the good thing about his illness was that it at least brought perspective to his life and his golf.
”I‘m not worried about the fact all my ranking points have been taken away,“ he added. ”I will go up very quickly when I start playing regularly again.
”Golf is certainly a weird game though. I saw (world number one) Rory McIlroy shooting a 78 in front of me this week.
“I have to take it day by day but the fact I‘m playing again is a bonus,” said Garrido.
“What I‘m going to do is play a few more events before the end of the year to get my rhythm back. Then I’ll go to Tour School and be in shape to return next year when I can hopefully get my career going again.”
Editing by Toby Davis