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Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Third Master

Sounds like a sequel to my A Tale of Two Masters post, doesn't it?

Surprise! It is.

Of course, my original two masters -- 2010 Masters champ Phil Mickelson and 2011 Masters champ Charl Schwartzel -- continue to make news. I didn't realize the cut at the Humana Challenge was to come after 3 rounds. Yet Phil's news still isn't clear, as play was halted yesterday when winds made the La Quinta course too dangerous to play. Play on all three courses had to be stopped as a result, and Phil had 6 holes left to play. Phil has gotten better each day, and at -5 is a single stroke short of the projected cut. Of course, with better weather today, that cut may move up.

As for Charl... man, you just can't underestimate that guy! The course that the Volvo Golf Champions is being played on is par 73, and after a 75 on Thursday that left him 11 strokes back. Then he calmly shot a 67 and 68 to leave himself a single shot off the lead going into today! (I'll save you the math. The Day 1 leader was at -9; the Day 3 leader is at -10. They didn't exactly make it hard for him, did they?) The irony here is that Charl putted poorly, missing several short putts. He could have actually had a 2- or 3-shot lead going into Sunday!

But it's the third Master who made the real news Saturday. José María Olazábal, the 1994 and 1999 Masters Champion, sits just 2 off the lead... and, save for a double on the 17th, would have been co-leader going into today's round. The 2012 European Ryder Cup captain is more than a sentimental favorite.

2012 Ryder Cup captains José María Olazábal and Davis Love III

You see, José María has had more than his share of health problems over the years. He's suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since the mid-1990s. Shortly after getting the captainship he told the Guardian (a UK site) that he would need to "manage my programme very carefully over the next 20 months" because of the pain. He also told them that at times over the past three years (the interview was done in January 2011) "I have been in such excruciating pain I was unable to do anything at all. All you can do is just sit or lie down and not move."

I have to confess that I'm pulling for JM to win the Volvo Golf Champions today. His last win came way back in 2005. After everything he's been through, wouldn't it be a cool story if he won again leading up to the Ryder Cup?

At any rate, José María Olazábal certainly deserves the title of Masters champ. Even thought I can't do anything else, at least I can pay him that much respect. Good luck, JM!

The photo came from JM's page at europeantour.com.

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