'Fresh' Lonard targets winning return

Peter Lonard is hoping he can return from a spell on the sidelines in the right shape to win the Mastercard Masters in his native Australia for the third time.

Peter Lonard is hoping he can return from a spell on the sidelines in the right shape to win the Mastercard Masters in his native Australia for the third time.

Lonard, who took time away from the course to prevent further burn-out, has admitted he is often at his best in the middle of a heavy schedule, but decided to take drastic steps to break a run of bad form earlier this season.

This week’s US$1.5m event in Huntingdale, Melbourne, will mark his comeback after two months vuluntarily on the sidelines – but he is optimistic that his inactive preparation is a risk that will pay off.

A third missed cut in a row at the Turning Stone Championship in September persuaded him to take a break – and he concedes he is not certain how his form will be when he returns.

Lonard, Mastercard Masters champion in 1997 and again five years later, told The Melbourne Age: “The one thing I know is I’ll be fresh.

“I’ll probably be a bit nervous for the first time, because I’ll be trying to work out where it’s going to go.

“I was sick of playing golf and sick of travelling. I’ve never really had a break – and I just thought ’I can bumble through here or I can just let go’.

“I was just burned out.”

The 40-year-old took a complete break from competition, instead satisfying himself with a handful of sessions with coach David Leadbetter before returning to full training a fortnight ago.

“I’ve never done this before, but I’ve been practising my short game a lot,” said Lonard.

“I think it’s good, but I guess I’ll know a bit later whether it’s worked.”

The event, jointly sanctioned by the Australasian and European Tours, boasts a field including the likes of Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Michael Campbell and Richard Green.

Allenby is a two-time winner, triumphing in 2003 and 2005, with Green taking the 2004 edition.

Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn, meanwhile, is the highest-ranked member of the European Tour contingent in his first appearance in the competition.

There are a number of absentees, though – with Adam Scott opting instead to compete in South Africa, Geoff Ogilvy missing out to spend time with his pregnant wife, and defending champion Justin Rose on World Cup duty in China.

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