It has been 15 long years since a European last won the Masters Tournament, but José María Olazábal is confident that the drought will be ended this week.
Since the man affectionately known as “Olly” saw off Davis Love III by two shots in 1999, four Americans, two South Africans, a Fijian, a Canadian, an Argentinian and an Australian have all triumphed at Augusta National – but not a single European has slipped on a Green Jacket.
However, Olazábal, competing for the 25th time as a professional two decades after his first win, believes that will change this week, with the likes of Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose all leading contenders to take the title.
He said: “It’s only a matter of time before a European puts on the Green Jacket, I’m sure of that. Europeans have had lots of chances to win the tournament in recent years, but for whatever reason it hasn’t quite happened.
“You could pick out around ten or 12 European players who have a great chance this week, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it happened this year. I certainly hope so.”
One of only four Europeans to have won the Masters on more than occasion – the other three were his great friend Seve Ballesteros, Sir Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer – Olazábal knows the contours of Augusta better than most.
And despite having played in every Masters since 1989, he never gets tired of the drive down Magnolia Lane, getting changed in the Champions Locker Room and stepping out onto the first hole – or ‘Tea Olive’, to give it its proper title.
“I still get nervous on the first tee, even after all these years,” he said. “You start looking forward to the next Masters as soon as the last one finishes.
“It’s difficult to put into words just how beautiful this place is – there’s nowhere else like it in the world. The way they look after this golf course is just amazing, you never get tired of playing here, even though it’s such a tough test. When the wind is swirling and the course is playing firm and fast, it’s absolutely brutal. But it’s always an absolute pleasure to play here.”
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