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Jose Maria Olazabal makes comeback at Madrid Masters

Double U.S. Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal makes a third career comeback from injury and illness when he plays this week’s Madrid Masters.

The 42-year-old Augusta winner of 1994 and 1999 hopes his woes are behind him at last after 14 months racked with pain and fatigue relating to rheumatism.

The Spaniard plays his first event for over three months just under three weeks since acting as Nick Faldo’s vice-captain in Europe’s Ryder Cup defeat by the United States at Valhalla.

“I don’t have any great expectations. My first target is to see if I can make the cut,” Olazabal told a news conference.

His career has been blighted by rheumatoid problems. He lost most of 1995 and all of 1996 through suffering polyarthritis in his feet, before coming back to take part in a successful 1997 Ryder Cup and then win his second Masters title.

Rheumatism then struck him down last year and he did not play after August. When he resumed playing late this March his limited schedule lasted only until late June.

When he narrowly failed to qualify for the British Open, Olazabal was again forced to lay off, this time because of heavy fatigue caused by drugs he was taking for his rheumatism.

“This week I just want to test myself and see if my body can stand up to a tournament. I stopped taking the medicine a few weeks ago and I feel much better,” he said.

“I go step by step, either playing 18 holes or hitting balls for one and a half hours, not both.”

While interest surrounds Olazabal’s latest comeback, Martin Kaymer, Angel Cabrera, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are realistic potential winners of the event which starts on Thursday at Club de Campo.

Kaymer, last year’s rookie of the year, again goes for his third title of the season after losing out in last Sunday’s Dunhill Links Championship playoff with winner Robert Karlsson.

The 23-year-old German, eighth on the European money-list and 34th on the world rankings is comfortably on target to achieve his goal of playing in all next year’s majors and world golf championships.

Jimenez has recovered from the heavy cold he suffered last week in Scotland.

Last year’s U.S. Open champion Cabrera and his 19-year-old son Federico provide the tour’s latest father and son tournament duo.

Federico, who has played five events on the Challenge Tour this year, plays on an invitation handed out by tournament promoter Fernandez-Castano.

Spaniard Fernandez-Castano beat Briton Lee Westwood in a playoff for the British Masters title two weeks ago and is bidding to win his own event in its inaugural year.

 

October 8, 2008




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