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Jose Maria Olazabal hoping for local boost
May 4, 2011

Injury-plagued Jose Maria Olazabal will rely on local knowledge to try to get his game back into shape when he plays his first Spanish Open for seven years this week.

The 45-year-old double U.S. Masters champion is using 2003 British Amateur champion Alex Larrazabal, brother of regular tour player Pablo, as his caddie when he plays the new El Prat course near Barcelona this week.

Spaniard Larrazabal, 31, honed his game at El Prat and knows inside out the new layout designed by Greg Norman and opened in 2004.

Olazabal’s recent career has been plagued by a second bout of arthritic problems and he is looking for light at the end of the tunnel.

Europe’s Ryder Cup captain was only able to play three events last season and this year he has made only two cuts in six starts, leaving him ranked a lowly 161st on Europe’s money-list (Race to Dubai).

“I’m struggling…don’t seem to find my way,” Olazabal told reporters at El Prat on Tuesday. “My health is OK, not a hundred per cent but bearable. It’s certainly no excuse not to play well.

“Alex knows El Prat well, he has played competitive golf and he can help me make decisions. He has a fighting spirit which keeps me going.”

Larrazabal said he was looking forward to working with Olazabal.

“It’s not a long course but the greens are deceptive and the second nine is more strategic than the first,” he said.

While Olazabal and his caddie are sure of a warm reception at the tournament starting on Thursday, that may not to be the case for Briton Elliot Saltman.

The 29-year-old Scot was suspended in January for a “serious breach of the rules” over marking his ball at a Challenge Tour event last September and he makes his first appearance since the ban.

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