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

Olazabal plans special homecoming

Jose Maria Olazabal broke down in tears an hour after winning his second Masters title in Augusta.

Having just about kept his composure on his way to an emotional two-stroke victory over Davis Love, the 33-year-old Spaniard revealed the full depth of his feelings in a press conference.

Olazabal, who three years ago was struck by what he was told at the time was rheumatoid arthritis in his feet, was asked about the first thing he will do when he returns home to San Sebastian this week.

Remembering the agony of the months at home when only his nearest and dearest knew what he was going through, he wept, covered his face and then on recovering said: "I'll embrace my family, for sure."

Olazabal had to crawl around his house for a spell in 1996 and faced the frightening uncertainty of a future not only without golf but also without walking - until a German doctor pinpointed a herniated disc in his lower back and started a recovery programme.

"It was my quality of life that was in doubt," recalled the man whose career had turned upside down after winning the 1994 Masters.

"Everyone around me was suffering and there was nothing anyone could say to cheer me up. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

"I preferred to be alone and never dreamed I'd be sitting here now. It's very difficult to express how I feel.

"I'm proud of myself and very happy not just for myself but also for all the people - my family and friends - who supported me through the bad times.

"It's a great day for me and it's just not comparable to 1994. I didn't have time to enjoy that victory but this one I will much more.

"The most important reason for that is because of what I've been through but also because it's my second Major. Some people might say I was lucky to win one."

Not surprisingly, the people Olazabal wanted to thank included that Munich doctor, Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt.

"I'll thank him in person," he said. "Without him I wouldn't be here. I won this tournament because of him and part of my victory belongs to him too."

A lay-off that eventually stretched to 18 months meant Olazabal missed the 1996 Masters in which Greg Norman, six shots clear with a round to play, shot 78 and lost by five strokes to Nick Faldo.

Norman had been embraced by Faldo on the final green after that traumatic experience and there was a similar scene between the Australian and Olazabal after Norman, joint leader after a 25ft eagle putt at the 13th, had fallen back to third place and missed another chance of a green jacket.

But the 44-year-old "Great White Shark", who bogeyed the 14th and 15th holes and missed a six-foot birdie putt at the 16th which would have put the pressure back on, was shedding no tears of his own.

"I'm sad I didn't do it but this isn't another heartbreak so don't make a mountain out of a molehill on this one," he told reporters.

Norman had seven months out himself last season following shoulder surgery and added: "As well as the sadness there's a feeling that this been a successful week for me.

"I feel I'm back to where I can contend again and don't see any reason why I can't keep on doing so even into my 50s.

"If I couldn't win I wanted Jose to because of what he's been through. I got in touch with him when he was ill and he got in touch me while I was recovering. He's a good person."

Olazabal will most remember three holes of the final round. After Norman had holed his eagle putt at the 13th he followed him in from 20 feet for a birdie to keep a share of the lead and then countered an outrageous chip-in by Love at the 16th.

The American, runner-up to Ben Crenshaw in 1995, had missed the green badly left over the lake but sent his chip past the flag and up a slope then watched as it came back down and curled into the hole.

It put him only one behind but Olazabal struck his tee-shot to less than four feet and holed for a two-stroke cushion which he maintained despite hitting the famous Eisenhower tree off the 17th tee.

He had to chase a five-iron onto a green described as "unplayable" by Love and "sadistic" by Sandy Lyle, and by holing a seven-foot second putt there he kept his two-stroke advantage.

A closing par meant a 71 on a day when nobody in the field broke 70, and an eight-under-par total of 280.

Olazabal earned £450,000 and guaranteed himself a Ryder Cup place in September. But neither of those things mattered.

A day he could not imagine not so long ago was reality. The homecoming should be some celebration - and doubtless there will be more tears.