José Maria Olazábal breathed new life into what appeared to be an unsuccessful Ryder Cup qualifying campaign with the timely assistance of that rarest of birdies – an albatross - during an eventful second round of the BMW International Open at Golfclub Munchen Nord, Eichenried.
The Spaniard, currently lying 18th on the points list and seemingly a forlorn hope to qualify automatically after a first round 70, became energised by holing a one iron second shot from 235 yards at the par five 11th for the first albatross of his life.
He went on to charge home in 30 for a round of 62, ten under par, and a 12 under par total of 132. Even so, he was still five strokes behind halfway leader John Daly, who tagged a 64 onto his opening 63 for a 17 under par aggregate of 127.
Daly leads the field by four strokes with Adam Scott lying second after a 64 and Olazábal occupying third place on 12 under along with Richard Green of Australia, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington – who fired the day’s best round of 63 - and defending champion Thomas Björn of Denmark.
Olazábal knows that only a victory can secure his place in the top ten, and the probability increased late in the second day when Phillip Price (currently tenth), Ian Poulter (11th) and Miguel Angel Jiménez (12th) missed the cut.
Price must now sweat over the weekend while Olazábal, Sergio Garcia, and several others down to 23rd-ranked Dean Robertson attempt to capture the title and the precious tenth position which would lock down a place at The De Vere Belfry.
As a result of the trio of players missing the cut, Ireland’s Paul McGinley can savour the prospect of his Ryder Cup debut while Bernhard Langer will be in England next month playing in the biennial match for a tenth time.
Olazábal deflected questions on the Ryder Cup, preferring to look towards winning another title on Sunday afternoon just an hour before the team is formalised by captain Sam Torrance’s announcement of his wild card picks.
He said: “I don’t want to consider the Ryder Cup as the first issue. I know what I have to do and this is the tournament to do it. I don’t have many choice – I have to win and that’s it. Somehow I managed to open the door just a little bit.
“I know it will be difficult but to be honest all I want to do is play the best I can. I want to enjoy the game like I used to when I was playing good golf. I haven’t enjoyed a round of golf s much as today for a long time and that’s the most important thing.”
The two-time past Masters champion also had another first – five twos on his card – but the stroke which rekindled his spirit was a thing of beauty as it hopped forward on the green and rolled into the hole. There followed an impromptu Flamenco-style dance in the middle of the fairway with Olazábal and his caddie, Phil Morbey showing off their dancing talent!
He promptly followed that up with twos at the 12th and 17th and birdie threes at the 15th and 16th in an inward half of 30 – one of four such scores on that nine during a day of low scoring and dramatic feats. France’s Raphael Jacquelin aced the 17th to win a Z8 BMW car worth 240,000 Deutschmarks (approximately £80,000).
There have now been five albatrosses and 26 holes in one on The European Tour during the 2001 season.
Daly, without a victory since the 1995 Open Championship at St.Andrews, also displayed some great shotmaking, grabbing eagle threes at the sixth and 18th to establish his commanding lead.
"It’s been a long time since I had a four stroke lead – in fact it’s been a long time since I won” he said. “I still have a sense of what it feels like to win, but it hasn’t happened since the Open at St.Andrews. It’s been a long time but I know it feels great. However there is still a long way to go.”
Scott appeared on course to blitz the course when he eagled one and birdied four of his first seven holes. However his charge stalled midway through the round before a late surge took him to 13 under par and a place in the final group with Daly in the third round.