Golf: Olazabal takes the slow route

Even a Spanish master finds the atmosphere at the MacGregor Training Week in Spain conducive to the development of new skills.

ABOUT THE only remaining person in golf who believes the sport should have an off-season longer than the two-week Christmas and New Year break is Jose Maria Olazabal. It is hard to prise the Spaniard away from his San Sebastian home in the Basque country at this time of year and it is hardly a surprise that he has not joined the lemming-like rush down to South Africa for the start of the 1999 European Tour on Thursday.

Olazabal's season will not get under way until the Dubai Classic next month,where he will be the defending champion, but he did get on a plane last week. It was only an internal flight down to Malaga, where he popped in on the MacGregor Training Week to see his old coach, John Jacobs.

The veteran swing guru is the only man Olazabal has ever listened to about his own particularly rapid action.

Top of the agenda was his problem driving the ball, one that outside observers find hard to detect but which causes the perfectionist inside Ollie to find a constant source of grief.

"Not being able to hit the driver properly is hard to take because the rest of my game is all right," Olazabal said. "I drove the ball well for four or five weeks early last year when I had some good results and won in Dubai but all of a sudden it deteriorated."

Olazabal was also at San Roque to film a television commercial with another MacGregor player, Darren Clarke. The gist of the conversation was: "I'd like to be able to drive the ball like you, Darren."

"And I'd love to hole as many putts from 15 feet as you, Jose."

One of the other reason why Olazabal thinks the majority of his 1998 season did not live up to a promising start was not having a proper break last winter. "I only had 10 days off before I started practising again to play the early events of the season," he said. "By June and July I was feeling very tired."

The former Masters champion has the option to pick and choose his assignments. He also has the knowledge that he does not have to worry about retaining his player's card or chasing Ryder Cup points, which will come in abundance with a few top finishes.

For those officially invited to the European Tour Training School, the new recruits from the Qualifying School and the Challenge Tour, the same does not apply. Immediately on getting back from Spain on Sunday, John Bickerton was on a plane to Johannesburg for the South African PGA.

Bickerton, who turns 30 later this month, is used to a busy schedule. At one point last season he played 22 consecutive weeks, trying to combine a limited number of appearances on the main circuit with the Challenge Tour, where he managed to secure his card for the real thing. "You have to keep going because you're thinking the next week might be the big one."

He considered pulling out of the British Masters because he was shattered but was persuaded to carry on and finished eighth, his best result on the European Tour. Having lost his card after two seasons in 1996, Bickerton feels more prepared this time.

"I have learnt not to set too many goals," he said. "In the past I found that obstructive because you end up thinking more about the goals than just playing golf."

This was Bickerton's third visit to the MacGregor Week and though the idea is that players do well enough never to return - Vijay Singh became the first graduate to win a major championship at the USPGA last August - Bickerton found it just as valuable as on his first visit. "I would come every year if I was invited," he said. "I cannot believe more players who have the opportunity don't come. If you take away one thing in each aspect of the game, then it is worth it."

By far the biggest draw is Tommy Horton's short game clinics. The unrivalled No 1 on the European Seniors Tour, Horton is showing off new tricks to players who think they know it all. "The great thing about Tommy is that not only does he tell you what do to, but he can show you," said Bickerton. "There is an instant cure, while it takes time to work on things with your swing."

Bickerton finished fourth in the MacGregor Challenge at Valderrama, which was won by Per Nyman with a 65. Jimmy Patino, the club's president, was not present to witness this affront to his praised creation but he was apparently happier that only three of the 20 players broke par.

Jorgen Aker holed a six-iron for an albatross two at the infamous 17th, but the hole was only playing 450 yards and will be converted to a par- four by the time the American Express World Championship is staged at the former Ryder Cup venue in November.

The scientific approach to the game is all very well but things can get out of hand. Mac O'Grady, the eccentric 47-year-old American who ruffled a few feathers when he won his card at the Qualifying School, was not at San Roque, but the word is that he is considering having two inches taken out of his legs. O'Grady has made a thorough study of the physiology of the golf swing and one of the main conclusions of his research is, apparently, that the ideal height for a golfer is 5ft 10in.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing