Fit Again Olly Hoping for More

One of Europe’s most popular golfers hopes to return to the fray of competitive action later this month. His many fans will be hoping that Jose Maria Olazabal can roll back the years and recapture the form that made him a double winner at Augusta.

The major wins, the Ryder Cup partnership with Seve, have ensured that Olly has been a star of the European golfing scene for almost as long as I can remember. He was also responsible for a couple of my favourite golfing quotes.

On a drizzly morning at the Open one year Olazabal was treated to an early morning tee off time that no one in their right minds would want. His designer stubble that day may have been caused simply by the time saving expediency of not shaving. It did not escape unnoticed.

In the commentary booth Alec Hay commented after a well shaped drive that Jose “had a sensible head on his young shoulders.”

Summoning all the disdain and disapproval that he normally reserves for the madness of the modern world Peter Alliss replied:

“Yes, doesn’t always choose to shave it though, does he?”

The second quote came after one of his victories at Augusta. The impeccably dressed anchor man of the sort that America excels in asked Jose if he “was hungry for success?”

Turning the mundane into the memorable and floored by the language divide Olly replied:

“Yes, I missed breakfast and lunch so by the final holes I was very hungry!”

Amazingly the anchor man didn’t miss a beat as he moved on to his next question. They clone them well in TV land!

And Olly also holds one of golf’s most bizarre records. Travelling to the now infamous 1999 Ryder Cup Jose holed a putt that travelled the whole length of Concorde’s cabin. The ball was in motion for over 26 seconds. At the speed the plane was travelling that meant the ball travelled a total distance of 9.232 miles. The rest of the trip was not quite as enjoyable!

Now with his 42nd birthday fast approaching it looks like Olazabal’s best years are behind him. Injuries which have troubled his career have been joined by a form of rheumatism that has kept him out of action for the past four months.

The outlook is now good although he expects his return to action to be a long hard slog. His involvement in the Ryder Cup is assured, he is one of Nick Faldo’s vice captains, but he harbours hopes of playing.

A private man off the course he has earned the respect of millions of fans across the world. Even as the twilight of his career approaches he has proved when fit that he can remain competitive. There will be bad weeks of course but the good weeks still seem to show some promise that he has one last “big” one left. If others slip up, if he remains consistent then who knows? A third place finish in the 2006 Masters was proof of his enduring potential on the biggest stage.

A big victory would push Olly into Ryder Cup contention – motivation enough for one of Europe’s most enduring successes in the event – and give millions of golf fans across the world pleasure in celebrating with one the game’s greats.

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