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March 28, 2000

Jose Maria Olazabal


LEE PATTERSON: We appreciate you spending some time with us. I know you just got off the golf course. Maybe a couple of thoughts about what you saw and how you feel heading into the week.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, the golf course is in great shape. I cannot see it could be any better than it is right now. Obviously, as you can see, the wind is really blowing hard, and that is making the golf course play extremely tough. I don't know what the weather forecast is for the rest of the week, but if the wind keeps on blowing like this, it is going to be a helluva test. But my game, it has been a struggle; haven't been able to really feel comfortable with my swing. I have been struggling with my driver and with my putter too. I haven't been putting well this season so far. Last week it was really bad on the greens and on the tees, so I am still working on a couple of things with the driver. But the putting stroke, all I can do is just practice as much as I can; see if I can get it back to what it should be.

Q. (Inaudible)

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: The driver was no good but the rest of the game was good. I kept on saying that last year. It was just the one thing that was not working well - that was the driver - but the rest of the game was pretty solid. This year, as I just mentioned, the putting is no good. I haven't been able to make many putts at all last week or in Dubai. And, well, that makes things more difficult.

Q. (inaudible)

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, all I can do is just practice this week and at the start of next week. The greens here are really good, pretty much like Augusta, so it is going to be well. The more time I spend on the putting greens, well, the better it should get by next week.

Q. (inaudible)

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I felt a couple of good signs at Dubai, started to drive the ball well there, but last week was really bad. Today on the golf course was pretty much the same. It is something I will have to work on. According to what I see right now, I don't think it is going to be a short-term improvement. Hopefully I will get it right. I don't know when, but --

Q. If you could put a confidence level in a percentage what it was last year and what it was now?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: That is really difficult. But overall I would say it was better last year than it was -- than it is right now because last year there was only one club that was no good. Right now there is a couple of clubs, and one of them is the putter, which is a very important club in the bag. I think overall last year was a little better than this year.

Q. (inaudible) can't get away with bad putting...

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Correct. That is why I am saying what I am saying. Next week -- it doesn't matter what week you are playing at. If the putting stroke is good, it is going to save you from some troubles and you can get advantage of the good shots. But if the putting stroke is not there, it is going to be even more difficult to score well.

Q. Two-part question. How long have you been struggling with the putter? When did it really begin? Can putting problems kind of leak out and affect your confidence and the rest of your game even if you were not struggling (inaudible) --

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: You know, whenever you struggle with any club in the bag, it might affect the rest of the game because it is putting extra pressure on the rest of the game. That is a simple fact. I haven't been putting well all this season, to be honest. I didn't putt well in Australia; didn't putt well at the Match Play; didn't putt well at Dubai. It has been quite poor, actually this season, the putting strokes. So hopefully, as I said, there is good greens here, good greens next week, so I am going to spend a couple of hours, try to spend a couple of hours every day on the putting green see if that brings any improvement to the putting stroke.

Q. (inaudible) Your putting and short game has always been your main strength. I mean, right now, is this the worst putting spell you have gone through or have you experienced this before?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I have experienced this kind before; it is not the first time. For instance, right now I recall even 1994, it was wonderful year for me. I really did play extremely well that year, and the putting stroke was not much in the way I was playing. I have been through periods like this one before. That is not new anyway.

Q. (inaudible)

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, not really because I am missing them both, both sides of the hole. It is not like there is just a tendency to miss it one way or the other. It is just both ways.

Q. A lot of people are under the impression that Augusta National favors a big hitter (inaudible) you won twice, Langer won twice, Faldo three times, Crenshaw -- how do you explain the fact that so many guys that are medium off the tee have had so much success there?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I will tell you this all along, I mean, Augusta National, I think, without a doubt, favors the long hitter. But at the same time, if you have a good touch on the greens, you can compensate with lack of distance off the tee. I think that is the beauty of Augusta. You don't need to really be a great hitter of the ball to be able to score. But obviously if you are a great hitter of the ball, it is going to be easier for you to score better at Augusta if you have pretty much the same level of short game of the rest of the players.

Q. (inaudible)

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I think there is a bunch of players that are really playing well. But obviously, at the moment, because of the records and also because of the golf course, as we just mentioned, that it favors also the long hitters, Tiger has both ends of the game. He is a long hitter of the ball and he has a great short game, so, well I reckon he is one of the players to beat, without a doubt.

Q. Is it frustrating to now have your game at that point, a week away from it?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: It is not frustrating at all. We are professionals. I have been playing this game as a professional for fourteen or fifteen years, and you know that these kinds of things are going to go through your game. It is just a pity that the game is not sharp approaching The Masters. But I wouldn't say it is frustrating. I do have quite a few years ahead of me and quite a few more majors to be played. My main concern is to improve my swing and game so I can have a go at some of them. I wouldn't put it like, you know, frustrating at all. It is just a pity that I will have to approach Augusta in this conditions.

Q. (inaudible) last 20 years or so since Seve came along, European players have had so much success there; they haven't done so great at U.S. Open or PGA?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, it is pretty simple. the way you have to play the game is completely different. When you are playing the U.S. Open or the PGA, you know, it is more, you know, hit the ball from point A to point B, from point B to point C. If you don't do that, you are going to struggle. At Augusta it is different. You don't have to be so accurate off the tee as you have to be at a US Open or a PGA. And on the other hand, it allows you to use your skill and abilities around the green which is something that is, you know, out of the question on a US Open or a PGA. Whenever you miss a green on a US Open, we all know what kind of lie you are going to have. It is going to be buried in the high rough. It is going to be -- hacking it out over there. Simple as that. There is no escape from that.

Q. (inaudible)

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I heard they changed a little bit of the 10th green. They planted some trees on the right-hand side on 14. They changed a little bit the 16th green too. I will have to see those changes, but obviously they will -- what they are trying to do is try to find some more pin positions and at the same time much tougher, if that is any possible.

Q. Some players like to play the week before as opposed to going in real early. You have played the week before quite a bit in your career.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Yeah. Well, there are some of us that like to play the week before and some others that they prefer to just take the week off and hit balls and just approach the tournament in a different way. I think it is just a personal matter. I feel comfortable playing the week before because I feel, through experience, that usually I do better if I play well the week before.

Q. (inaudible) what about your game at the moment? What is good about your game at the moment? You told us all about what is bad about it.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, I mean, there is not much left anyway. (laughter). Well, I would say the iron play is not all that bad. I mean, it is just that the two ends of the game, on the two most important clubs in the bag, are not good at the moment, which that is no good news anyway.

Q. (inaudible) this golf course being as long as a couple years ago, it would have been pretty unworkable situation for you and your problems. Did you think about that at all today, how far you have come from that situation (inaudible) --

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I don't think all that much about that when I am playing on the golf course. Obviously it is something that comes to mind every now and then. But I think, well, as you mentioned, this is a tough golf course to walk. But on the other hand, you know, I feel great. I can walk the 18 holes, no problem at all. And I think that the greens are -- this week is a good preparation for next week because if we don't get any rain, the greens are quite firm and the greens are pretty much like Augusta, they have a lot of undulations and they are quite quick. I think this is a great week to be playing.

Q. Are you growing this beard?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: No, I will shave it tomorrow. Don't you worry (laughs).

LEE PATTERSON: Anything else? Thank you.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: You are welcome.

End of FastScripts….

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