The Masters
The Masters
Golf Today Home PageAll the latest golf newsCoverage of all the worlds major toursFor all your golfing needsGolf Course DirectoryOut on the courseGolf related travelWhats going on
Preivew of this years tournament
News and report from the 1st round
Scores from the 1st round
News and report from the 2nd round
Scores from the 2nd round
News and report from the 3rd round
Scores from the 3rd round
News and report from the 4th round
Scores from the 4th round
Information on the golf course
Details of the prize money for the tournament
Tournament Records
Golf Today report of last years event
Final Round Reports
Olazabal plans special homecoming
Love runner up again despite miracle shot
Garcia makes it a Spanish double
Norman pays for lost ball
Westwood confident that Major success will come
Olazabal wins second Masters title
British interest high in last round
Tee Times & Pairings

Olazabal & Norman glad to be there

It is a scene played out in every professional golf tournament around the world, every day, many times a day.

Playing partners arrive on the tee, shake hands with each other and when their names are called to drive off they acknowledge the cheers of the crowd.

But when Jose Maria Olazabal and Greg Norman went through the same routine on the first hole of Augusta National today there was a sense of more than the normal pleasantries of golf.

For the two men, major winners both, to be the last pair in the last round of the last Masters of the millennium was a special moment.

They each wanted to win. Badly. Really badly. But more than that, they were glad just to be there.

Olazabal, hanging on to his one-stroke lead despite a third round 73 in which his driving and his putting let him down, was watching the Masters on television three years ago when Norman lost a six-shot lead, not sure whether he would ever play in the event again or indeed whether he would ever walk again.

Norman, 44 years old now and sufferer of so much Augusta heartache over the past two decades, underwent shoulder surgery after missing the halfway cut last year. He was out of the game for seven months and had people wondering if he would ever contend again.

But here they were, with David Duval and Tiger Woods, the two men on whom most of the pre-tournament spotlight fell, fighting to catch up with them and with a dream victory in their sights.

"This is the first time I've put myself in a situation like this since my return," said Olazabal, who spent 18 months away from the sport fighting a foot problem initially diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, but then altered to a herniated disc in his lower back.

He won his third tournament back in 1997, but now he had a chance to repeat his 1994 Masters triumph and he added: "Just giving myself a chance of winning is a great feeling."

The 33-year-old Spaniard admitted it was "very emotional" when the fans rose to applaud him during the taxing third round, when he lost the lead first to Lee Janzen, then to Davis Love, but then got it back.

Imagine what it would be like if he could do the same in the final round.

And the same goes for Norman, three times a runner-up in the Masters, whose collapse to a closing 78 in 1996 brought a worldwide wave of sympathy for the Australian.

"I've always said I don't live in the past," he said. "What's done is done. I've never been a believer in crying over spilt milk.

"I never doubted my ability to put myself back in the position to win. But Jose and I are proud as punch because we're back playing the game we know we can."

When Olazabal was confined to his home, crawling from bedroom to living room, Norman made a point of staying in touch - and Olazabal did not forget.

"He did the same after my shoulder surgery last year," said Norman. "He was one of the few players who called or dropped a note.

"That means a lot because it means he's not only a competitor of yours, but a friend."

Olazabal recalls the 1996 Masters trauma of Norman. "I don't want to see anybody going through an experience like Greg went through.

"I felt sorry for him. It was sad to see. My relationship with Greg is a close one. He was always in touch when I was having my problems."

Norman's third round 71 was a dramatic roller-coaster and his playing of the short 12th, Augusta's most famous hole, will live long in the memory.

Joint leader at the time, his tee shot flew over the slender green into bushes and a five-minute search failed to find it.

"The official asked me if I wanted to ride back to the tee and that's the last thing I wanted," he said.

"I wanted to take my time and gather myself. As I walked back it seemed like there wasn't one individual in that group of people back there who didn't want to see me not hit the green (with his second ball).

"You could actually feel the emotion coming out of them. The same going down to 13, the same walking down 15 and 16. That's the most I've ever felt on a golf course.

"I've felt some good stuff at the British Open and Australia, but that's the most I've ever felt in the United States."

He did hit the green with that second ball and when he sank a putt of nearly 30 feet for a bogey four destiny seemed on Norman's side for once.

Whether it stayed there was about to be discovered as he shook Olazabal's hand today, acknowledged the cheers of the crowd and turned his mind to the task in hand.