Two-time Major Champion José Maria Olazábal will embark on his latest recovery mission in this week’s CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar after a prolonged battle with rheumatism and tendonitis which has severely hampered his recent playing career.
The 44 year old Spaniard has competed just once since the same event last year at Club de Campo del Mediterráneo in Castellón when he attempted a comeback in the ALSTOM Open de France in July, missing the cut with rounds of 82 and 70.
However, after acting as a late addition to Colin Montgomerie’s backroom team at The Ryder Cup a few weeks ago, Olazábal is now ready to resume his ‘day job’ as one of Europe’s most prolific winners and engaging characters.
Despite being restricted to that solitary on-course appearance in France during the last 12 months, Olazábal feels ready to test himself once more after his latest lay-off.
He said: “I’ve managed to make successful comebacks in the past, but it gets tougher as you get older. “Your physical condition is tougher to maintain, especially if – like me – you have gone almost three years without being able to exercise properly. It has been very frustrating not being able to play, not being able to practice and not feeling well. That hurts. But I’ve always been a positive person and I am already looking forward to getting myself fitter for next year.”
The 2010 CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar brings another of the European Vice Captains back into the spotlight, when Sergio Garcia returns to the golf course where he learned the game under the tutelage of his father, Victor.
Garcia, hosting the event for the third year, won the title in 2008 and finished fourth 12 months ago behind Sweden’s Michael Jonzon and the joint runners-up, Martin Kaymer of Germany and another Swede, Christian Nilsson.
Jonzon has fond memories of that victory last year, which came at the most opportune moment. Going into the tournament, the 38 year old had plunged to 158th place on The Race to Dubai and was in severe danger of losing his card for 2010.
However, four rounds in the sixties enabled him to claim the €333,330 first prize and helped him to an eventual finishing position of 69th to go alongside a two year Tour exemption.
Jonzon said: “I’ve been struggling recently and maybe these good memories will help pull me out of a tough period. It’s amazing how things can change. This time last year it looked as if I would be going to the Qualifying School and the next minute I was planning to go to World Golf Championships.”
He added: “I felt good coming into this season but for some reason I haven’t played well. I am down on confidence at the moment but if I can get that back I think the birdies will drop!”
As usual, there is a powerful Spanish contingent assembling near Valencia with Olazábal and Garcia being joined in the line-up by fellow European Tour winners Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaňo, Pablo Larrazabal, José Manuel Lara, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Pablo Martin, who came so close to winning the Portugal Masters last week.
Australian Richard Green, who charged through the pack with a closing 65 to capture the Portugal Masters, will be seeking a quick-fire ‘double’ as his end of season campaign takes a new twist. “All of a sudden, there is a lot of golf in front of me” said Green, who was winning his third European Tour crown at Oceanico Victoria Golf Course.
“With my family living in Australia it is an occupational hazard that I can’t get home as often as I would like, but I will now sit down and work out where I am going to play between now and the Dubai World Championship.”
Additionally, the CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar will provide the penultimate chance for players to secure their card for next year and for those ranked just inside and outside the top 115, the next two tournaments are likely to be crucial.