The Go Network
GO Home GO News GO Money GO Entertainment GO Family
About GO Network
Free E-mail

Olazabal earns second green jacket

Monday, Apr. 12 8:17am ET
Frozen moment: Olazabal answers on 13

By John Marvel
ESPN Golf Online

AUGUSTA, Ga. - The wind blowing briskly through the pines was the only thing anyone heard as Jose Maria Olazabal and Greg Norman stood at the end of Amen Corner on Sunday. The two friends were battling for the 63rd Masters and sizing up putts on the 13th green that both believed controlled the momentum of the tournament.

 Jose Maria Olazabal
Jose Maria Olazabal putts for a birdie on the 13th to regain a share of the lead.

Olazabal held the lead at 6-under-par and was looking at a 21-foot birdie opportunity.

Norman was a shot back at 5-under, but staring at a 25-foot eagle chance that might propel him toward the elusive green jacket he had flirted with for so many years.

The pair had been up and down to that point. Olazabal began the day with a one-shot lead at 7-under, but wobbled midway through the opening nine with three consecutive bogeys at Nos. 3-4-5. He righted himself with a birdie on No. 6 and added to it with a birdie on the 10th.

Norman began the afternoon a shot out of the lead but struggled early, too. He dropped shots with bogeys at Nos. 3 and 5, but bounced back with birdies at Nos. 8 and 11. A bogey at the par-3 12th dropped him back, and many were wondering as he headed to the 13th tee if this was the beginning of more Masters heartbreak for the Shark.

"I wanted to start with a few pars because I always have trouble with the front nine somehow," Olazabal said. "I was really not a very happy camper after five holes. I bogeyed 3, 4 and 5 and I said, 'My god, we're giving the tournament away.'

"It was a good thing I birdied No. 6. After that, I just tried to remain calm and make as many shots as possible."

Norman has always played well at the 13th, going 22-under in 67 competitive rounds played at Augusta National Golf Club. That included three eagles, 28 birdies and only eight bogeys during the years, but eagle was the only thing on his mind at he took aim with a 4-iron from 198 yards. As the ball sailed toward its target, the gallery stationed around the green seemingly willed it toward the target and exploded in unison as it hit softy, rolled past the flagstick and stopped within striking distance.

The noise was deafening, creating a commotion throughout the forest on the back. But Olazabal, who had laid up short to 115 yards, answered with a sand wedge on his third shot that stopped inside Norman's ball, but to the left of the hole.

"I hit 3-wood off the tee and then went with the 4-iron," Norman recalled. "It was probably one of the best shots I've hit in a long time."

The crowd was going nuts as the golfers walked to the green, but quickly grew silent as both golfers went to line up their putts. It seemed everyone in the area knew history might be at stake and they might be observing the eventual winner in action.

Norman putted first, taking several moments to line up his putt from both sides. As he struck the ball, it began rolling slowly, but picked up speed as it neared the hole. As it dropped in, the crowd again exploded as the Shark had bagged an eagle to vault him into the lead.

The roar was heard throughout the back nine. Steve Pate was addressing a putt on the 14th green but had to back off when he heard the noise. On the 18th, Nick Price turned his head and smiled, seemingly knowing what had happened. When the leaderboard posted a 7 next to Norman's name, Price backed off and applauded his longtime buddy.

"I've made that putt before for an eagle," Norman said. "After it went in, (caddie Tony Navarro) came over to me and said, 'You knew you were going to make that, didn't you?" I aimed dead straight and the ball broke a little left at the beginning, flattened out and went right at the end."

During the frenzy, Olazabal, now suddenly a shot out of the lead, walked over to his ball and got down to business. He looked at the putt from several angles and paced it off. He knew what was at stake.

"Greg hit a wonderful putt," he said. "As soon as he hit it, it looked to me like it was going in all the way. And while the ball was rolling, I just said to myself, 'Just try to make yours' because I didn't want to be one stroke behind going on (to the next hole).

"I actually enjoyed the roar when Greg made the putt. And then when I was starting my putt, I think it (the roar) was on the 16th and then again. At that point, I'm thinking those roars are because they're putting Greg on the leaderboard."

Olazabal then calmly stepped to his putt and drove it into the cup for birdie, tying Norman in the lead at 7-under. The gallery exploded again and Norman pointed toward his playing partner as a signal of respect. The Spaniard pointed back and the race was on.

"I always do that with him," Norman said. "You just point and say, 'Hey, well done.' ... I just knew the game was on. When I made mine, I never doubted that he wouldn't make his. It was just the way the thing was building up. It was quite extraordinary."

Added Olazabal: "That's the relationship we have on the course. We're close and whenever one of us hits a great shot, we say something. It's just not being polite, either. When he made that putt and I made mine, we looked at each other and both understood. He pointed at me and I pointed at him. We were just saying to each other that those were great putts."

The sequence was quite memorable, but more so for Olazabal because it was a crucial answer to Norman's dramatic move. If he misses, he heads to the 14th a shot behind his playing partner with five holes remaining in The Masters. Things might have been different.

Instead, it was Norman who, again, failed to embrace destiny. He made consecutive bogeys on the 14th and 15th, while Olazabal played within himself and took advantage of the situation. A birdie at the 16th put things out of reach of Norman and Davis Love III, but the 13th allowed him to stay in control.

"I think today there were a few crucial holes," Olazabal said. "I think 13 was one of them."

No one who was at Augusta National on Sunday would argue with him.

Tours | Instruction | Equipment | Courses & Travel | News | Interact | Special Sections | Fantasy Golf
(c) 1999 ESPN Internet Ventures. Click here for Terms of Use and Privacy Policy applicable to this site.
Send your comments to ESPN GOLF Online.