THE 1999 MASTERS // Olazabal fit for Jacket

THE 1999 MASTERS // Olazabal fit for Jacket


Jose Maria Olazabal, his golf career once jeopardized by foot problems, holds on for his second victory at Augusta.

The noise echoed throughout Amen Corner, the ground trembling beneath his feet. Jose Maria Olazabal stood very much alone on the 13th green, listening to the roars reverberate through the pines, knowing the cheers were not for him.

For a man who kept to himself during the dark days of his career, who wondered if he would ever be on such a stage again, the clamor did nothing but invigorate him.

One of golf's most popular players had just holed a dramatic 25-foot eagle putt to take the lead during the final round of the Masters, and now it was Olazabal's mission to make a putt of his own to tie Greg Norman.

"I knew before teeing off that everybody was going to be rooting for Greg," Olazabal said. "I said to myself, "Prepare yourself for it.' I really did enjoy that cheering and shouting. That's what makes this tournament special."

Olazabal calmly rolled in his 21-foot birdie putt to tie Norman, and a huge turning point had occurred at Augusta National Golf Club on the way to his second Masters title.

Norman, in search of an elusive green jacket, never wrestled the lead from the Spaniard. While the Shark went on to play the final five holes in 2 over par, Olazabal played them in 1 under.

His 1-under 71 on a day when no player broke 70 was good for a total of 280, 8 under par, and a two-shot victory over Davis Love III. It was three ahead of the tough-luck Norman, who now has eight top-five finishes at the Masters but no victories.

It was an emotional win for Olazabal, 33, who three years ago feared his career was over because of a mysterious foot ailment.

"It's very difficult to express how I feel at this particular moment, especially after what I went through," said Olazabal, who won his first Masters in 1994. "I'm very proud of myself.

"When I was at my lowest, I never thought about this happening again. I thought I would never play golf again. To me, to be right here, standing in front of you with a green jacket, it's an achievement that I didn't even dream about when I was feeling that low."

Left to feel low this time were Love (71) and Norman (73), who were among six players who held or shared the lead during the final round.

Bob Estes (72) and Steve Pate (73) settled for a fourth-place tie, and Lee Westwood (71) tied for sixth. All led at some point. David Duval made a run early before settling for the day's low round of 70 and a tie for sixth.

Olazabal became the 14th player to win multiple Masters, but this one also will be remembered for Norman's inability to add to his two British Open titles.

"I was more disappointed in '96 than I am now," said Norman, referring to his final-round collapse, when he lost a six-shot lead to Nick Faldo. "No question about that. That was a totally different animal tournament-wise. This was a successful week and a sad week all rolled up into one."

At 44 and a year removed from major shoulder surgery, Norman was glad to get in the battle again. But when the tournament was on the line, he could not produce the shots necessary to win.

He tied Olazabal with a 20-foot birdie putt at the 11th hole, then gave it back with a bogey at No. 12. At the par-5 13th, Norman hit a 4-iron second shot onto the green, 25 feet past the flag.

When he rolled it in, you could sense it might be his day. Then, just as quickly, Olazabal made his putt, and the mood changed.

At the par-5 15th, he again pushed his drive to the right, blocking his chance to go for the green. After a layup, Norman had just 98 yards to the hole, but hit a sand wedge into the right bunker. He blasted out and lipped out the par putt and was two behind.

Meanwhile, Love was a hole ahead at the par-3 16th, and when he made a miraculous chip shot for an improbable birdie, he trailed Olazabal by just a shot.

"I had to do something great, I had to make some birdies coming in," Love said.

But it wasn't enough. Not when Olazabal followed with a clutch 6-iron shot to 3 feet at the same hole, then knocked in the scary putt. That gave him a two-shot advantage over Love and a three-shot cushion over Norman, who missed a 6-footer for birdie at the hole.

Olazabal hit a poor drive at the 17th but made an excellent recovery shot to the green and holed a 7-foot par putt to take a two-shot lead to the 18th. And that's all he needed to feel safe about earning the $720,000 first prize.

"The first time I won here in '94, it was my first major event," he said. "I didn't have the knowledge or the time to really enjoy the jacket, the victory. This one, I'm pretty sure I'm going to enjoy it much more than the one I had before.

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