Olazabal Takes Step Closer to Ryder Cup With Win


Jose Maria Olazabal came from behind on Sunday to capture the 19th victory of his career on the European Tour at the Novotel Perrier Open de France.
Playing both the third and fourth rounds on Sunday due to heavy rains earlier in the week, the Spaniard ' who turned 35-years-old on Wednesday ' posted rounds of 66-67 to finish at 12-under-par 268, two shots clear of Italys Costantino Rocca (64-69), Paul Eales (67-68) and Greg Turner (67-67). Frenchman Gregory Havret was a shot further back at 9-under.
Free Video - Registration Required Olazabal comments on his Open de France win
For Olazabal, not only is this his first win of the year in Europe, but it is his first since last years Bensen and Hedges International, which he will defend next week at The De Vere Belfry.
Of course, the two-time Masters champion has been spending the majority of his time in the U.S., and has only competed in one other event this year in Europe, the Open de Espana, where he missed the cut.
In contrast, he has already played in nine events in America. His best finish in any of those has been a T12 at The Players Championship.
Due to his lack of appearaces in Europe, Olazabal ' as well as several others ' have been the mark of conversation and some criticism from several media sources who feel that the players are not taking a priority in making the 2001 European Ryder Cup team.
With his win, Olazabal moves into the eighth spot on the Volvo Order of Merit List, and has increased his chances for making the team dramatically.
If I want to make the Ryder Cup team, it is very important for me to do well in those tournaments I am going to play in Europe, Olazabal commented. This is a very important step towards that.
It feels great, he went on to say. It has been a long time since I have been a winner on this Tour. I am very, very pleased. It was a good fight within myself just to stay calm ' as calm as possible and focused as possible to get the most out of every shot. Im very happy with what I have done even though I know I should have struck the ball better.
There are ways to score and ways to play golf. Im very happy with the way I scored this week, but think I need to improve the quality of the shots I hit, especially off the tee. Thats what my target and job is for the next few weeks.
Rocca may have been thinking along the same sentiments, as after his morning round in which he made six birdies against no bogies, he could do no better than an afternoon score of 69 which consisted of four birdies, but also three of the black numbers.
He may have also been thinking back to 1993, when it was at this same venue that he won his first tournament on the European Tour.
I made two or three mistakes but Ive enjoyed my game, the Italian veteran commented. I missed a chance at the 15th from about six feet to go to 11-under and then made a mistake on the 16th.
When you play a course or near a course where you won it brings back good memories and I thought about my first win. This has been a good week for me.
Full-field scores from the Novotel Perrier Open de France