Jose Maria Olazabal: give it up for the 'old' guard
Anyone catch an unexpected name near the top of the leaderboard at the Player’s Championship this past weekend? No, not Sergio Garcia, though I’ll eat a little crow on past statements and recognize that he did mount a real charge on Sunday (birdies on four of his last five holes) to finish in second place, two back of Phil.
No, I’m talking about Jose Maria Olazabal. The name sort of jumps out at you once you scan the short way down to third on the leaderboard, at 8-under. It’s funny how someone who is 41-years-old can be seen as an old-timer and, well, is sort of forgotten when we think of those who are in contention week after week. Of course, Olazabal is not in contention every week (he finished this year’s Masters at +16) - far from it, owing to both a scaled down tournament schedule and the fact that he is getting up there in terms of age, as golfing goes at least. But the two-time Masters winner put on a good display this weekend. Both on Saturday and Sunday, he blitzed holes 9-12, recording four consecutive birdies on both days (on Saturday, he actually birdied holes 9-13, tying the best birdie streak on the PGA Tour this year). Of course, Olazabal had to make a lot of birdies this week: He fired an opening round 78. According to PGAtour.com, Olazabal is one of only two players in Players Championship history to ever post an opening round 78 and still end up in the tournament’s top five at the end of play Sunday (the other player is Jim Colbert).
So, Olazabal still has some game.
Getting back to Sergio, his runner-up finish was the best ever by a Spaniard at the Players. The god of Spanish golf, Seve Ballesteros, only managed two ties for third place during his career. If he continues to play well, who knows, my colleague Bill Wolfrum might take him to win the U.S. Open. Bill can be scary in his predictions.
And on a last note (and speaking of colleagues), Brandon Tucker is spot on translating South African Rory Sabbatini’s comments about Tiger Woods as premature and perhaps a bit insecure. I mean Sabbatini’s having a great season, but my boy you really have to do something on Tour before you can go after the world’s best in the media. We don’t need Sabbatini telling us Tiger is beatable…we can see that on a leaderboard such as at this week’s Players. I too am all for a bit of candid trash talking on Tour, to make things more interesting, but old (young) Rory needs to bring something to the table besides words. Woods played terrible this week (with the exception of Sunday). Sabbatini was the first round leader. In the end, Woods beat him by one stroke. Bring it on, Tiger?
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