Golf / US Masters: Olazabal's 67 transforms his prospects

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JOSE-MARIA OLAZABAL is perfectly placed to win the 58th Masters after he took his revenge on Augusta National in the second round yesterday. The 28-year-old Spaniard shot 67, five under par for the day, three under for the tournament and within striking distance of the leaders.

Olazabal, the young South African Ernie Els, Tom Kite and Tom Watson were two strokes behind the leader, Larry Mize. Mize, who led at four under after the first round, finished last night at five under. The Augustan, who won here in 1987, was a stroke ahead of Greg Norman, Dan Forsman and Tom Lehman. Seve Ballesteros was at two over par for the tournament after adding a 76 to his first-round score of 70.

Olazabal, whose game has been transformed in the last month during which he won in his native country and was second in New Orleans, recorded his best score on this treacherous course. In 1991 he was runner-up, by a stroke, to Ian Woosnam and he took the loss badly. He sulked for about three years. Olazabal would probably have won then but for a bizarre quadruple-bogey seven on the short sixth hole.

Yesterday he showed how to play the hole by hitting his ball six feet from the flag and he rolled in the putt for a birdie two. It was one of five birdies in an immaculate round. 'I felt much more relaxed,' he said. If his putting was more incisive, his driving - waywardness off the tee has been his Achilles' heel - was superb. He missed one fairway, one green.

Olazabal's 67 was not the best score of the day. That belonged to Forsman, who was in the running 12 months ago until he felt the pressure on the back nine in the final round. Bernhard Langer, the defending champion, had another 74 to stand at four over par but at least he made the halfway cut. In two rounds Langer has had just two birdies, both at the 15th.

The 13th, the final leg of Amen Corner, did for him yesterday after being so generous last year. In the fourth round 12 months ago he hit a three-iron approach across the water to within 20 feet of the flag and sank the putt for an eagle three. Yesterday he hit one of the best drives of his life, drawing the ball around the trees on the left to perfectly crop the dogleg. Then he hit a four-iron straight into Rae's Creek. After a penalty drop he took three putts to get down and recorded a double-bogey seven.

The 36-hole cut, which was instituted in 1957, allows the best 44 scores and ties to survive to the third and fourth rounds. There is, however, another crucial clause. Anybody within 10 strokes of the lead last night qualifies for the last two rounds and Nick Faldo, Costantino Rocca, Sam Torrance, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam all survived at five over par.

Faldo, the winner here in 1989 and 1990, shot 73 yesterday to add to his 76. Rocca, the Italian who is making his debut here, came in with a 70 after covering the back nine in 34. But for an obscene nine at the 15th on Thursday he would have been sitting pretty.

However, there was no hope for Peter Baker, who had a 75 for 153, Anders Forsbrand and Barry Lane. Lane had an 82 in the second round and was 14 over par for the tournament. Faldo had five birdies, four bogeys and one double bogey, at the sixth, yesterday in his 73. 'I'm very, very disappointed,' Faldo said. 'The course is the hardest I've ever played it. The pin positions, the greens, everything.'

Faldo owed his survival to a stroke of outrageous fortune at the 17th hole. His approach shot careered way left into the massed audience perched around the green. His ball struck a spectator and then bounced off a chair. It rolled down a bank, on to the green and finished eight feet from the flag. He had the temerity to sink the putt for a birdie three.

Woosnam, the champion in 1991, played a dreadful bunker shot at the last to drop a stroke and was in no mood to talk to anybody. He hurried from the 18th and made a comment that sounded like a holiday island resort in Thailand. Phuket, or something along those lines.

Iain Pyman, the British amateur champion, was another European checking out of his hotel on the Bobby Jones Expressway but at least there were mitigating circumstances surrounding the departure of the 21-year-old Yorkshireman. Had this been the Ilkley Moor Open he would have been in a dentist's chair rather than on a golf course.

Before turning professional, a status he will assume next week, he has an even more pressing engagement with a wisdom tooth that was unwise enough to misbehave on the eve of the tournament. Nevertheless Pyman would not have missed this for the world. Yesterday he scored 79, following his first round of 82, and his aggregate of 161 was marginally better than that of Gay Brewer Jnr.

There is nothing junior about Brewer. He won the Masters in 1967 when young Pyman was nowt but a gleam in the eye of Dennis Pyman. Dennis, Iain's caddie here, was forced to change his son's bag from one with the name of Maxfli to a bright green and yellow number emblazoned with the Masters logo. As an amateur Pyman was not allowed to display any form of advertising. As a professional he will have a reminder of his last appearance in the non-paying ranks. Are you keeping the Masters golf bag, he was asked. 'Put it in the car quick,' Pyman said to his father.

There may be another Pyman on the circuit. His brother Nigel, 23, whose ambitions to be a professional footballer (he was on the books of York City) were ruined by an ankle injury, hit his first golf ball, in practice with Iain, last week and took to it like a duck to water. 'He's got a natural swing,' Peter Cowen, Iain's coach, said of Nigel Pyman.

However, Colin Montgomerie, despite a 73, missed the halfway cut at six over par for the tournament.

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