Olazabal in search of first Spanish title - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Olazabal in search of first Spanish title

Jose Maria Olazabal makes his first appearance of the season in Europe today as he goes in search of a first Spanish Open title here.

Jose Maria Olazabal makes his first appearance of the season in Europe today as he goes in search of a first Spanish Open title here.

Three of Olazabal's 22 European Tour titles have come in the Canary Islands with victories in the 1989 Tenerife Open, the 1992 Turespaqa Open de Tenerife and the 1997 Turespaqa Masters Open de Canarias. But the double Masters champion has yet to win his national Open.

Since the start of the tour in 1972 there have only been three home winners, the most recent being Sergio Garcia in Gran Canaria in 2002 who followed in the footsteps of Seve Ballesteros (1981, 1985, 1995) and Antonio Garrido (1972).

Olazabal has shown flashes of his best form this year with a first round of 65 at the BellSouth Classic followed by a traditional strong early showing at the US Masters. But the 38-year-old has failed to win a European Tour title since the Hong Kong Open in November 2001 and has not featured in the Ryder Cup since his sixth appearance ended in controversy at Brookline in 1999.

Ashington's Kenneth Ferrie will be defending the title after his play-off victory in Tenerife over Sweden's Peter Hedblom and Ireland's Peter Lawrie, who went on to become the first Irishman to be named Rookie of the Year. Other past champions in the field include the Swedish trio of Joakim Haeggman (1993), Robert Karlsson (2001) and Jarmo Sandelin (1999).

Haeggman is the most recent Tour winner in the field winning the Qatar Masters last month, while Germany's Marcel Siem (Dunhill Championship) and Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee (Malaysian Open) will also be looking for their second victories of the season.

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