Olazabal America Join Hands - But Its Not Permanent


He watched the final three holes alone, and that wasnt too surprising to those who know anything about Jose Maria Olazabal.
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.