The day I wrecked Olazabal's wedge

Volvo PGA preview

The day I wrecked Olazabal's wedge
The day I wrecked Olazabal's wedge
Augusta’s 15th green.

Jose Maria Olazabal must start as one of the favourites for the Volvo PGA Championship which starts tomorrow at Wentworth. He won the title in 1994 and holds the record for the most consecutive cuts made - 15 - since his debut in the event in 1986, when he finished tied 44th behind Australian Rodger Davis.

He might have won it back in 1992, as well, had I not encouraged him to wreck one of his clubs!

The Spaniard had reluctantly agreed to do some instruction for the magazine for which I was editor at the time (Today’s Golfer).

Of the 10 escape shots we asked him to play for the series - to be shot in a whirlwind two-hour period before his practice round – we saved a shot from the water’s edge until last.

He didn’t really want to do it but we suggested he cover up in his waterproof suit and persuaded him it was a good idea.

"I’ll do this only once," he warned "so the photographer better get it first time!"

The golf photographer in question, the highly experienced Matthew Harris, also convinced Olly all would be well.

"Where do you want the ball?" he asked tersely as we checked out the light on the edge of a par-3 green on the Edinburgh course.

"Just under the surface, with half the ball showing, please. Play the shot on a count of three," I said.

With waterproofs donned, Olazabal stepped gingerly to the water’s edge and placed his ball carefully in the watery mud on the edge of the lake.

He took out his favourite Mizuno sand wedge that he had cherished for more than seven years, addressed the shot and waited for our count.


The splash and the crunch were almost simultaneous. The ball popped out and trickled towards the flagstick – a brilliant shot. But Olazabal, his waterproofs drenched, was looking like thunder.

He had inadvertently placed his ball on a rock just below the surface and had gouged out a deep groove in the flange of his favourite club – one that had helped him earn all his amateur honours and over a dozen pro tournaments.

He muttered a torrent of expletives in Spanish and marched off to see if Barry Willets in the Mizuno Tour van could repair it.

Sadly, we heard later after his disappointing opening round over par, it had been damaged irreparably.

It was his last piece of instruction for the magazine though he eventually claimed the coveted Volvo PGA title two years later.
After that, I always want Olly to win on the West Course, in a sense to make up for our day of shame and absolve myself from blame.

This year could provide a second victory – with one of the favourites, Padraig Harrington, deciding not to take part.
But the Spaniard will have his work cut out with World No.2 Ernie Els in the field, with his eyes also on the E583,000 first prize.

He will also face stiff opposition from defending champion Anders Hansen, Retief Goosen, Paul Casey, Nick Faldo, Darren Clarke, Colin Montgomerie and the in-form Thomas Bjorn.

And what's more, the winner could well come from South America with Eduardo Romero, Angel Cabrera and Ricardo Gonzalez regularly show good form here.

Sponsored Posts