Golf: Olazabal lightens step and takes giant strides once more

Intense, passionate, dedicated are all adjectives to describe Jose Maria Olazabal's approach to golf.

After 18 months out of the game with a foot injury, perspective can now be added to the list. Andy Farrell finds a relaxed Spaniard looking forward to the start of a new season next week.

There have been times when Jose Maria Olazabal has not always looked like he was enjoying himself on the golf course. These would be the days that reporters awaiting the Spaniard at the recorder's hut could expect to get more out of Nick Faldo in monosyllabic mode.

While Olazabal has the hands of an artist, and Faldo those of a (highly proficient) technician, the pair share one vital quality in the make-up of a champion, that of being a perfectionist.

Olazabal was down in the dumps after losing the 1991 US Masters to Ian Woosnam for so long that it was not until March 1994, after a sharp talking- to from Maite Gomez, the wife of his manager Sergio, that the complex Basque snapped out of it. He was slipping on a Masters Green Jacket only a month later.

But while that season was the highest point of his career, the lowest followed from September 1995 when he had to quit the tour with a foot injury. An initial wrong diagnosis of the condition meant there were times he could not walk during the 18 months he was away from the game.

Such experiences change a person. "It has always been a pleasure to play golf, even though I didn't look like I was enjoying it sometimes," he said. "It has always been a pleasure all my life to play golf, but it gives you a different feeling after what I have been through.

"After you have been 18 months without being able to work, then you start to appreciate the small things in life. Just to wake up, to stand on your feet having no pain, being able to work, play 18 holes and just look up in the air and see blue skies and trees all around you. These are very, very nice things."

Last week Olazabal was in a relaxed mood as he made a fleeting visit to the European Tour's Training School at San Roque. He talked as openly and warmly with the new recruits who will embark on their professional careers this year as he later did with the media.

It was the first time the 31-year-old had returned to the hotel where he stayed as a member of the European team at last September's Ryder Cup. That triumphant week holds special memories for Olazabal, as does his victory in the Canaries Open, which was only his third event after resuming his career. "I cannot put one in front of the other," he said.

"Winning my third tournament was very emotional. On the 18th hole all the memories of those 18 months came to my mind and it is very difficult to explain what you feel. At the Ryder Cup, it was pretty much the same thing because I had to decline the invitation to play two years before. It was a wonderful week, not just for me but for Europe."

Olazabal was so overcome at the victory press conference that he broke down in tears. The memories of that week, he says now, are something "I couldn't put money on".

Money does not figure large in his list of priorities. "Material things don't mean much to me. I have had a chance in my life to have the best cars, the best watches or whatever. But I have never had more than one car, I am always wearing the same watch. Family, I think, is more important.

"I have been lucky in life to have wonderful parents and great friends. To be able to build a house with enough room to bring my parents to live there, that to me is more important than anything else. They have done a lot for me and now I am paying them back. That is what I really enjoy, to see them happy."

The reason for Olazabal's visit to San Roque was twofold. He is working with MacGregor on a new set of blade clubs, although no contract will be signed until he is entirely satisfied. And there was the chance for John Jacobs, the renowned coach who has been the only man Olazabal has ever trusted enough to take advice from, to look over his swing.

The session was positive, although Olazabal knows he needs to work on the takeaway in his swing and his driving before opening the season at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand next week. He has not always journeyed to the Far East at the start of a year, but it has been forced on him by the decline in opportunities to play in Europe prior to the Masters.

Olazabal, who still lives on the San Sebastian golf course where his parents worked, does not enjoy long trips from home. He does not want to go full-time on the US Tour, but feels improvements need to be made at home.

"I strongly believe that we need to improve the facilities and the conditions on the golf courses," he said. "I think that should be the priority and I think it is the priority for the people running the European Tour."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue