Dinner with the European Tour last night, a happy occasion made even happier when Jose-Maria Olazabal joined us for dessert and coffee. The European Ryder Cup skipper was in terrific form, looking forward to playing in the par three comp today and then the rather more serious stuff tomorrow.
“I am not expecting to win,” he laughed. “But I am expecting to enjoy myself. If I had to pick one European to win this week then, for me, it would have to be Lee Westwood. Lee showed last year that he really knows how to play Augusta and that experience of really contesting the Masters can be so important to a player.”
Ollie, meanwhile, is just glad to be pain-free at present. He says his specialists cannot guarantee either a cure for his arthritic problems but neither can they say if one day it will just go away and leave his body happy once more.
“At its worst it was bad. I could not reach out for a glass of water without really bad pain. It was crippling but, for now, I feel okay.”
This is more than he could say about his great pal Seve. Ollie cannot speak about Seve’s cancer problems without his eyes welling up. When he spoke softly about Seve’s problems he wasn’t the only one on our table with tears. I asked him to pass on Golf Monthly’s readers’ affection and best wishes. It seemed the least to do.
And then I told Ollie that when he first played the Masters as a pro I put each way money on him at 80-1. I continued backing him for several years until, finally, I lost faith in his ability to win this thing. This, naturally, turned out to be the year he won.
After laughing, he apologised to me. I told him it was too little, too late. Good bloke is Jose-Maria and destined to be one of the truly great Ryder captains. Already he and US skipper Davis Love have been exchanging friendly barbs. There’s a long way to go but already the 2010 duel is gathering a head of steam.
Golf Monthly at the US Masters: