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Tuesday, April 13, 1999 Published at 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK

Olazabal: I'm so proud to be Master

Olazabel celebrates on the final green

Click here for US Masters leaderboard.

Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal has described his second Masters victory as his sweetest triumph yet, after winning by two shots.

Olazabal resisted the roars of the crowd for his playing partner Greg Norman, to claim victory at Augusta on Sunday after a final round of 71.

That gave him a total of 280, eight under par and made him only the second Spaniard to win two green jackets, after Severiano Ballesteros

[ image: This putt on the 13th was crucial]
This putt on the 13th was crucial
Olazabal's victory is all the more impressive, coming as it does, after major injury problems which left him fearing that he might be disabled for life, let alone wield a club again.

"I'm proud of myself and I'm very happy not just for myself, but also for all the people who supported me through the bad times," he said.

"The first time when I won, it was my first major event.

"I didn't have the knowledge or the time to enjoy the victory.

"This one I'm pretty sure I'm going to enjoy this one more, for several reasons.

"Most important is the problems I went through to get here. And it's my second. The first you might say it was a lucky week. The second one, the way I did it, it means a lot to me."

Garcia claims top amateur spot

Sergio Garcia's closing 73 in the blustery conditions made the teenager top amateur at the first major of the year.

Olazabal won by two shots, but it had looked much closer then that until he took control in the final stages of a close and thrilling final round.

For much of the day no more than two or three shots had separated the top eight on the leaderboard in difficult, breezy conditions.

But the former champion made his move at the right time as closest rival Greg Norman slipped away and Davis Love III moved into a second runners-up slot at Augusta in four years.

Tony Adamson describes the final putt
For Norman it represented further agony at the famous course, where he threw away his best chance to win in 1996.

But at 44, the Great White Shark, who underwent shoulder surgery last spring and was out of golf for seven months himself, felt as moved as anyone by Olazabal's remarkable return to the summit of world golf.

The best British challenger was Lee Westwood who finished three under after a final round 71, during which he briefly had a share of the lead.

Close battle

Olazabal had led by one stroke after his second-day 66 and again after a third-round 73. But when he bogeyed the third, fourth and fifth he had to re-group - and did so wonderfully well.

[ image: Augusta agony again for Norman]
Augusta agony again for Norman
Norman and Olazabal, the last pairing, appeared to have started to make decisive moves on the 13th, producing superb putts, which looked like making it a head-to-head battle over the last five holes.

The Australian eagled the par five hole, to momentarily go into the lead at seven under.

But the Spaniard was not to be outdone and birdied the hole himself to share top spot.

At that stage the two overseas stars were two shots clear of their nearest US challengers, Steve Pate and Davis Love III.

Olazabal sneaked ahead on the following hole as Norman bogeyed, having failed to recover from a tee shot into the rough at the right hand side of the fairway.

[ image: Love: Runner-up for second time]
Love: Runner-up for second time
Meanwhile Pate birdied the 15th to share second with Norman, ahead of Davis Love on five under, before a spectacular birdie from Love.

He chipped onto the 16th green's steep slope, the ball almost stopping before rolling down the hill and gathering pace as it dropped in.

He was now six under and a shot adrift of the lead, but Pate could not maintain his challenge and bogeyed to fall away.

Unfortunately for three times Masters runner-up Norman, he hit further problems at the 15th after both he and Olazabal laid up at the 500-yard hole, and the Australian bunkered his third shot.

He splashed out to eight feet away, but could not make the par putt, and although Olazabal missed a 12-foot birdie opportunity, Norman was drifting away.

[ image: Master at work during the final round]
Master at work during the final round
Olazabal used the bank on the 16th green and the ball ran down to within four feet of the cup.

Norman hit his tee shot straight over the flag to eight feet, but did not allow enough break to make the birdie putt, unlike the Spaniard who opened up a three shot gap on the Australian.

It appeared only Love could stop him now, but the American could do no more than par the final two holes and was in the clubhouse by the time Olazabal and Norman reached the 17th.

Their slow progress meant the Spaniard knew exactly what he had to do, and he comfortably played out the final two holes for his victory.

Meanwhile Norman's chance of a fourth runner-up place at Augusta slipped away when he bunkered at the 18th and parred the last.

British challengers

[ image: Westwood feels the heat as joint leader]
Westwood feels the heat as joint leader
Westwood ended five shots away from Olazabel, with a share of sixth place his reward for a final round.

Joint-leader with nine holes to play, the 25-year-old from Worksop dropped four strokes in the first three of those and with that left himself too much ground to make up.

There was disappointment too for Colin Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam after their names had appeared on the giant leaderboards around the famous course.

Montgomerie, four behind overnight, had a 74 for one under, while Woosnam, also out in 33 to be three under, came home in 39 to finish level par.

[ image: Monty could not succeed at another major]
Monty could not succeed at another major
But the British trio will applaud the fact that Olazabel has delievered an important psychological blow in Ryder Cup year by winning at the tournament the Americans hold so dear.

And everyone in sport will praise the Spaniard's courage.

He was told originally in 1995 that he was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and he spent 18 months out of the sport, crawling around his home for part of that time.

While he kept himself to himself, there were rumours that he had cancer and even Aids, even that he had become grossly overweight.

But eventually he returned thanks to German doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt, who changed the diagnosis to a herniated disc in his lower back and started a rehabilitation course.

Olazabal came back at the 1997 Dubai Desert Classic, finished 12th and two tournaments later won in Gran Canaria.

There were tears then and more when he played in the Ryder Cup in his home country six months later.

But he just about managed to hold them back as he became the fourth European, after Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and three-time champion Nick Faldo, to win two green jackets.

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