Olazabal celebrates 25 and 20 years of his triumphs in Augusta

The veteran Spanish golfer José María Olazabal will live this week a special edition of the Masters of Augusta, the first 'major' of the course and which begins on Thursday.

The veteran Spanish golfer José María Olazabal will live this week a special edition of the Masters of Augusta, the first 'major' of the season and starting on Thursday, as they will celebrate the 25th and 20th anniversary of their two triumphs in the prestigious tournament. This Wednesday, April 10 marks the 25th anniversary of the first 'green jacket' of Hondarribia, which a day later, just the day of the start of the competition, will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its second victory at Augusta, marked by Calvary who had previously suffered a foot injury.

Two successes, probably the most memorable at the individual level of Basque, and which remained the only ones of national golf in the 'majors' for almost two decades. It was not until 2017, again in Augusta, when the Castellón Sergio García put an end to the wait. However, still immersed in the era of the great Severiano Ballesteros, Spanish golf did not have to wait so long to taste another great triumph. The Pedreña won in 1988 his third 'British' and fifth 'major' in total with the name of Olazabal, a brilliant player in his amateur era, sounding already strongly in the professional circuit.

'Ollie ', as is known in the circuit, he had already achieved almost a score of victories, when he was planted in 1994 at Augusta National as one of the favorites for the prestigious 'green jacket'. In addition, he had already proven the distaste of losing three years before the Welshman Ian Woosnam for a failure on the 18th hole. But in the 94th edition, which he arrived with good feelings, he did not let it escape in a beautiful hand in hand with the American Tom Lehman. Things did not start well, with a first round of 74 strokes, two over par. Angry with his game, he did not even go to practice and went straight to his accommodation.

But the sensations he had brought to Atlanta appeared in the following days to arrive again on the decisive Sunday with all the options intact. On Friday he signed 67 strokes, five below the par for a total of -3, which became an optimum -6 after a positive Saturday (69). He would play on the last day at a stroke of Tom Lehman and one ahead of Larry Mize, favorites of the spectators and the second of them with the experience of having already won on that stage (1987). The Basque did not sleep well the night before in which he tried to draw in his mind everything he had to do and he did not find an appetite when he got up.

However, a surprise awaited him in the dressing room. 'Seve', double winner in Augusta (1980 and 1983), he had written a letter that helped him get inspired. "It was very beautiful." Seve "had a great influence on me and gave me courage and confidence," says Olazabal. The Hondarribia did not miss his second big chance. The well-known 'Amen Corner' that make up the holes 11, 12 and 13, Ozazabal and Mize came out with a stroke of advantage over Lehman. There were five holes left and everything was in a fist. The Basque, leader after the 12, continued safe and reached the par 5 of the 15th hole again in the lead after a 'bogey' of Mize. From there it would come out with half green jacket put.

La Diosa Fortuna made an appearance to avoid that his iron 5 of the second blow went to the water. Then, his talent to connect a sensational 'putt' of 30 feet to make a huge 'eagle' emerged. Lehman, with the same option and much closer, failed almost to his despair, even greater when he forgave a clear birdie on the 16th and another one on the 17th, where the only Spanish bogey came. In the final hole, Olazabal, although he passed the 'green', did not fail in his next two shots to be crowned champion. True to his character, his celebration was sober. "This is Agusta, you have to behave appropriately," he recalled.

A Calvary gives way to a second 'green jacket'

At that would not be the only time that the symbolic 'green jacket' would be worn. The Hondarribia would do it again five years later, in a triumph with a, perhaps, even more special meaning. A condition in the foot separated him from golf for a year and a half and he even thought that he could not walk again and that his career was "finished", but that fear disappeared when they found the source of his problem, the fault of a vertebra. Recovered from this great scare, Ozazabal returned to savor the glory of Masters in 1999, an edition also with an exciting final on his Sunday with the Austrianliano Greg Norman, who could not with the pressure of the final holes.

Y if in 1994 it was Ballesteros which inspired him, five years later he did another golf 'monster' like the South African Gary Player, this time before starting a tournament that came with problems in its 'driver'. But the winner of nine 'majors' was clear. "You have to believe in yourself", said the Gipuzkoa about the message he gave him and that strengthened him by "determination", "words" and "the way he said it". Another subsequent talk with 'Seve' also took away any kind of complex and from the start of the tournament it was in the candidates for the win going back from less to more. Thus, to his first card of 70 (-2), he joined a sensational second of 66 (-6) to put on a leadership that he did not let go despite a complicated Saturday (73) .

It was another Sunday of heart attack, in the that started with a stroke of advantage over the 'Bar Blanco Blanco 'and two over the Americans Davis Love III and Steve Pate. On the decisive day he got up uncomfortably by the wind and Olazabal carried out an exercise of resistance. If the April 10, 1994 only committed a 'bogey', on April 11, 1999 and accumulated three, and consecutive, after the first five holes, offset by a great 'birdie' in the 6 that calmed his game. An 'eagle' of Norman in the 13 found the answer in the form of 'birdie' of the Basque so that everything was in the air already between them two because Love III, on the lookout, never got to really worry, like his compatriot David Duval, which came down after being placed with all the options after the 10.

Nobody could with the Spanish, that since his third 'bogey' in the 5 did not make another mistake and signed a second part of the full course of expertise, all the opposite of a Norman that his genius in 13 was followed by two bogeys. The fourth birdie on Sunday, in the 16th, ended up sentencing the second 'green jacket' for the Basque. The celebration, once again, sober, although the emotion was palpable in his face for the past. "I could barely contain my tears in 18, I am a very happy man" , confessed.

Photos from as.com
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