Olazabal loses way in attempt to keep pace with Tiger

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The Independent Online

Are the pretenders hungry enough? Probably not. There is so much money in the game that most players' appetites are diminished. Woods is younger, and hungrier, and that is one of the reasons why he remains king of the jungle.

Olazabal, who was third in the Open at Muirfield in 1992, finished that year with an aggregate of 274, following a 68 in the final round. Here yesterday he finished with a total of 280, following a 74 in the fourth round. Garcia, who had also been within striking distance at the start of the day, came in with a 73 for an aggregate of 281 and they were both hopelessly adrift of Woods who, despite a modest 70 in the final round, still won by a street.

Of all players out on the Old Course Olazabal was probably under the most pressure - apart, of course, from Woods. The Spaniard had either the fortune or misfortune to be paired with the World No 1, going out last, waiting interminably for the final day's contest to begin.

It began quietly for both players who covered the first three holes conservatively, carefully and even with the nerve ends jangling. Woods and Olazabal had pars from the first three holes before the duel changed course at the fourth hole. But only temporarily. Olazabal secured his first birdie of the day to advance to 11 under par for the championship and at that point was one stroke behind the leader. It was the closest he got to Woods until he shook, very warmly, the champion's hand on the 18th green.

Woods got his first birdie on the par five fifth to go to 13 under par and with a two-stroke cushion he was never really threatened.

Olazabal had gone to near the top of the leader board with three sub-par rounds, but when he needed another yesterday he came up well short. He went to the turn in 35, but as his playing partner increased the pressure over the homeward nine, Olazabal's response was nowhere near enough. The Spaniard, who won the Masters at Augusta in 1994 and again in 1999, dropped from 11 under par to 10 under with a bogey at the 12th and further receded with a five at the 13th.

Olazabal can reflect on a successful championship because by rights he should not have been playing here in the first place. It was only the withdrawal of another Spanish major winner, Seve Ballesteros, that allowed his compatriot a place in the tournament as first reserve.

Olazabal's major problem in major championships is that he is never quite sure where the ball is going after he has whacked it off the tee. His driving remains erratic, which often forces him to use an iron off the tee instead of the driver and, as happened yesterday, that would immediately put him on to the back foot against an opponent who was in such dominant form.

As Woods picked up birdies on the 12th and the 14th, Olazabal went further backwards, dropping to seven under par for the championship on the penultimate hole, the Road Hole. Although the American also dropped a shot at the 17th, by this stage in proceedings the Spaniard was seven shots in arrears.

The game, of course, was up. Nobody could post a score that would have persuaded Tiger to look twice at the leader board.

Garcia, whose best finish in the Open championship was joint eighth in 2002, had also set out with grand ambitions. Resuming at eight under par, four shots behind the leader, he never recovered from missing a three-foot putt at the second hole. It knocked him from eight under to seven under, the figure at which he finished about four hours later, no nearer fulfilling the potential that says the 25-year-old Spaniard is destined for a place in the history books.

The Old Course had been lengthened to 7,279 yards after the reconstruction of five new tees, which were designed to bring traditional hazards back into play. They were actually designed to stop someone like Tiger from walking away with the claret jug.

It did not work, although when Woods won here in 2000 it was with rounds of 67, 66, 67 and 69 for an aggregate of 269. Yesterday his total was 274, which perhaps means that the five new tees had an effect. They certainly deterred everybody else.

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