November 17, 2008 – José María Olazábal will be spurred by memories of one of his greatest shots when he competes in this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open.
The Spanish legend conjured a stunning finish when he won the tournament seven years ago.
Trailing leaders Henrik Bjornstad and Adam Scott by two shots with three holes to play, he produced three birdies in a row to snatch the title.
The highlight of Olazábal’s brilliant finale was his approach shot on the famous par-four 18th at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling when he hit a five-iron to within inches of the pin.
“It was special,” admitted the two-time Masters champion. “I remember saying to my caddy after the 15th, ‘I think we’re going to have to make three birdies and hope the guys in the lead don’t birdie.’
“I made a nice putt on 16, I hit a good shot on to 17 and made the putt, too.
“Then on 18 I pushed my tee shot a little bit so it finished in the first cut of rough and I had a tricky second shot, with the flag tight and short right. I had to hit a low-cut five iron, and I hit the perfect shot.
“I’ve been fortunate to play some great shots in my career but, for the last hole of a tournament, then that is pretty much the best one. It was a great moment.”
Olazábal will be looking to hit the heights again when the 50th edition of the UBS Hong Kong Open – once again co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours – tees off at Fanling on Thursday (November 20).
Joining him in the line-up will be defending champion Miguel ángel Jiménez, former Hong Kong winners Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer, and PGA Tour star Rory Sabbatini.
Former US Open champion Michael Campbell is also in the starting line-up together with two-time Major winner John Daly.
Asia’s top players will be in the hunt, led by India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, fresh from his brilliant victory at last week’s Singapore Open, Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and Chinese No.1 Liang Wenchong.
Olazábal is looking to put recent injury problems behind him. A continuing battle with rheumatism prematurely ended his 2007 campaign and he has played only sparingly this year.
“I have to be honest and say I’m not 100 per cent pain-free,” he said. “I do have some pains here and there, in my lower back and right shoulder, and that is limiting the amount of practice that I can do. I need to get free of these problems to be fully back.
“But it is great to be back in Hong Kong because I have some good memories of this tournament. I’m looking forward to this week.”