Olazabal America Join Hands - But Its Not Permanent
So many emotions were wrapped inside the man, emotions which he chose to keep to himself. John Daly, Mark OMeara and J.L. Lewis all had chances to win at San Diego. Then it came down to No. 18, Lewis had tied him with a birdie at 17 and still had the par-5 final hole to play. It had appeared likely that someone would tie him. Just as quickly, it appeared that Lewis would beat him. And then, suddenly, Olazabal was the winner.
Life is like this for the quiet man from the Basque region of Spain. He is 36, yet until 1999 still lived at home with his parents in the house where he was born.
That is inconceivable in America. In the region where Olazabal lives, thats quite normal. The house is old ' 250 years old ' but quite large. It has been the home of Olazabals parents, his grandparents, and his sister. It was Olazabals home until he won his second Masters, when he bought a home close by.
He loves the little fishing village where he has lived all these years, Fuenterrarabia. He is not lonely in such a big house where he has family. He says he would like to get married someday, but his would-be wife would certainly be Basque, maybe from the same area. Finding a girl who understands my lifestyle is very difficult, Olazabal says.
He has always been among the most popular European players among the American pros. He doesnt say a whole lot. But then he hasnt gotten caught up in the whole Ryder Cup bravado, despite the fact that he is the European player who was waiting to putt when the Americans mobbed the green following Justin Leonards bomb in 1999. Olazabal is simply a great guy, say the Yanks.
He has been in America, though, playing this tour for the past couple of years. He hasnt quit the European Tour ' after all, he will always live in Spain. He continues to live in hotel rooms while hes doing his thing in America.
Americans have grown use to the serious face we see on television. He doesnt dawdle after a round, no idle chatter, no yuks with the guys. There is a reason, he says.
For me, my golfing day finishes when I leave the golf course, not when I hole the last putt, he says. So obviously, I am still concentrating when I finish my round, because I still have to analyze it and spend some time practicing.
Practice time has been with Butch Harmon - Tiger Woods coach - the past year. Harmon was at Pebble Beach two weeks ago. The two spent a lot of time working together, and not surprisingly Olazabal finished in fifth place.
I need to spend more time with him, said Olazabal, called 'Ollie' on this side of the Atlantic, Chemma by his friends in Europe. Chemma is short for Jose Maria in Spanish.
Last week was a great week,' said Ollie. 'I spent quite a bit of time with him (Harmon) at AT&T. We worked pretty much every day ' and that was good.
Olazabal speaks very good English, despite his Spanish background. He of course speaks Basque first and foremost, but also knows French and dabbles in Japanese, as hes had to converse on several occasions at Japanese tournaments.
Hes suddenly gotten longer with his drives, though he occasionally sprays it around a bit. But he tied for fifth in driving accuracy at San Diego on an average drive of 296.5 yards. Thats 30 yards more than he averaged last year, when he was 125th in accuracy.
Hes a superb putter, though, and classifies himself as a strong iron player.
I would rather hit 8-irons than 5-irons, he says. You know the guy that hits more fairways or more off the tee will always have the chance of hitting the greens and hitting it pretty close to home. So I think its more of consistency than anything else.
His pro career has been the stuff stories are made of ' won the Masters twice, 23 victories around the world, yet he spent two years with a very debilitating foot ailment which left him at times unable to walk. Now, he believes its time for him to try the American tour for the final chapter.
I reached the age where if I wanted to compete against the best, I had to give myself a chance, Olazabal says. This is the right time. I could have done it before, but I didnt have the need to do that before.
But as the years go by, you want to improve yourself and take the test. This is a great tour with the very best players and the top coaches. So, now this if the time for me to come here.
Here, in what may be the twilight of what has been a superb international career, hes chosen to play in America. San Diego, he hopes, is the first of several American titles.
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."
Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder
After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.
La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.
"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."
Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.
The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.
"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."