Spanish golfer Miguel Angel Jimenez will be out of action for at least three months after breaking his leg in a skiing accident on Saturday.
Jimenez, a vice-captain for Europe's Ryder Cup-winning team, said the injury, suffered in the Sierra Nevada mountains near his home in Malaga, could even take him out of the game until May.
"I was skiing in Sierra Nevada, I lost control and fell," Jimenez said. "I felt a huge stab of pain and I knew straight away I had broken something. The medical staff at Sierra Nevada took me for an X-ray straight away and I am very thankful to them, as well as all of the staff at the hospital, for their quick and professional response.
"I broke the top of the tibia in my right leg, just where it meets the knee, and they put in two pins. It will take three, four or five months to recover and be able to return to competition. I was playing very well but these things happen in life."
Jimenez, who will be 49 on Saturday, was named European Tour golfer of the month in November after his victory at the Hong Kong Open made him the oldest winner in Tour history at 48 years and 318 days. The win, his 19th, was his first on the European Tour for over two years. A lover of fine wines and cigars and known for his trademark ponytail, Jimenez said he had become a keen skier some years ago and was well aware of the risks. And he added the break would not keep him from his duties as the figurehead of a series of golf schools in Spain.
He added: "I was playing very well at the end of the season so it is obviously not a good time for me to get injured. When I took up skiing I knew the risks that I was taking but I love it so much I could not stop.
"It has not all been bad news for me to finish the year, however, and in just a few days I will be opening my new golf school near Torremolinos."
"The surgery was successful," a Tour statement said. "He is expected to be discharged on Monday, so that, armed with crutches, he can see out the year at home with his family."
His part in the 2012 Ryder Cup triumph for Europe at Medinah, where he was one of four vice-captains, put him in the running to lead the team at Gleneagles in Scotland in two years' time. Europe will announce their captain next month, with Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley the strong favourites to lead the charge against Tom Watson's United States team.
But Clarke believes the fact that Watson was named as the US captain for a second time could point to the Tour committee appointing a man with a similar wealth of experience. He believes they may offer Colin Montgomerie, who led Europe to victory two years ago, a return to the post.
He said: "We do have an unwritten rule where we don't ask anybody to do it again, but we might have to look at that. We seriously need the right man for the job. [Watson's appointment] could well affect who is appointed. A lot of people, myself included, were surprised when Tom Watson was appointed.
"It's a big statement. There are few more iconic figures in golf, he's adored in Scotland and it sends out a statement that they are very serious about winning the trophy back."