1999: Olazabal wins second Masters Green Jacket
Three years ago, the former Masters Tournament champion sat alone in the dark of his home in Fuenterrabia, Spain, and watched as late-night television beamed the tragedy of the 1996 Masters Tournament to him.
Here sat Jose Maria Olazabal, in the depths of despair, unable to walk, much less play a round of golf. There, on television, good friend Greg Norman was falling all over himself on Sunday as Nick Faldo stormed past.
``It was not very pleasant,'' Olazabal said. ``Watching the rest of the players playing the Masters, knowing that you have the right to be here and not being able to play, that is really hard.''
As that spring passed, Olazabal's life grew darker. A mysterious foot problem, thought to be rheumatoid arthritis, had forced Olazabal to limp through rounds, including the Masters, in 1995. There was seemingly no solution. In late 1995, he quit playing. By the summer and fall of 1996, all he wanted to do was sit in his room and sulk. Golf was no longer a release. When a Sports Illustrated reporter came all the way to his home for a story that year, Olazabal refused to talk with him.
``What we were hearing is he's done playing,'' said Davis Love III. ``That he'd never come back. When you sit out two years, you wonder.''
The man whose career seemed over at age 30 was supported by the kindness of Norman. The Great White Shark called. He wrote letters on stationery with his trademark shark logo at the top.
Finally, as 1996 was ending, a German doctor treated Olazabal for a lower-back ailment, not a foot problem. The feet were cured. And Olazabal was a different man who had more than 18 holes to play.
``Just being able to wake up in the morning and do whatever you want to do, go out, enjoy the weather, enjoy the scenery,'' Olazabal said, ``and also just being on the golf course. I think that was the most positive thing I learned from that period of my life.''
On Sunday, as he was paired with Norman in the final group of the day, Olazabal rose from the ashes to add another green jacket to his 1994 model. He left a pack of about eight golfers as they played the back nine. Olazabal's back-nine 33, including birdies on Nos. 10, 13 and 16, completed a 1-under-par 71 and gave him the win.
The most decisive blow came on the par-5 13th. Norman canned a 25-footer for eagle, and the pro-Norman gallery roared. Olazabal topped it with a 20-foot birdie putt to remain even at the top.
``I really did enjoy that cheering and shouting,'' Olazabal said. ``That's what makes a tournament special.''
When Norman bogeyed the 14th and 15th, and Olazabal nailed the win down with a birdie on No. 16, all that was left was the walk to the clubhouse, where Norman and Olazabal embraced on the 18th green.
``From my point of view, I think (Norman) deserves the jacket as much as anyone else,'' Olazabal said. ``When I finished today, when we were doing the scorecard, I said, `Greg, just keep on trying because you deserve this jacket, and hopefully you will get it.'''
It was a victory for all who have overcome adversity. There was Norman, long the bridesmaid, coming back from shoulder surgery in May. There was Steve Pate, he of the assortment of traffic accidents -- one involving a crash with a deer -- in 1996. And there was Love, whose late father contended here 35 years ago, just one day before his birth.
``This one I'm sure I'm going to enjoy it much more than the one I had before for several reasons,'' Olazabal said. ``When you win two (Masters) and especially the way I did it today, it means a lot more to me.''