Olazabal tries to ease Ballesteros' burden


As much as Jose Maria Olazabal needed cheering up last year, when his foot injury prevented him from hitting a single ball in competition, the Spaniard is hoping to return the favour to his countryman Seve Ballesteros. "My intention is to do the best I can to make the Ryder Cup team," said Olazabal, whose victory in the Canaries two weeks ago capped a remarkable return to tournament golf.

"Up to now, I cannot play more than two tournaments in a row, but my foot is improving all the time and I may be able to increase my schedule," Olazabal added. He has had to be picked for three of his four Ryder Cup appearances, but knows Ballesteros is hampered in his choices now that he has accepted he has lost his battle to get more than two wild cards.

Both Spaniards are preparing for next week's Masters by playing in the Freeport McDermott Classic at English Turn, but in contrasting moods. Olazabal is 41 under par for his three tournaments this year, while Ballesteros is 30 over in missing the cut in all his five events, after finishing 69th in the Order of Merit last season, easily his lowest position since 1974, the year he turned professional.

"Winning in the Canaries did surprise me," Olazabal said. "I have never cried with tears of happiness like that on the golf course before. But I am still trying to be calm, to do the best I can and to enjoy it."

Olazabal does not want to raise his expectations about the Masters. "I don't know what to expect at Augusta," he said. "Just to be there is going to be very special after watching it on television last year when I was in a bad way.

"Seve has a lot on his mind with being Ryder Cup captain. I am confident that he will play some good tournaments this year. As soon as the Ryder Cup is over he will start concentrating again. He was striking the ball very well when we played in practice recently. He just needs a few good rounds to give him some confidence."