By Bernie McGuire in Abu Dhabi.
Jose Maria Olazabal says he’ll have no issue if fellow double Masters winning and now LIV golfer, Bubba Watson asks him to pass the salt at this April’s ‘Former Augusta Champions’ dinner.
Olazabal, who turns 57 early next month, will be attending his 34th Masters since making his debut in 1985 and also a 25th ‘Former Champions’ dinner since winning the first of two green jackets in 1994.
However, Olazabal does not agree with fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm, who suggested late last year that the annual Augusta dinner could be a ‘tense’ affair given the decision by the Masters committee to allow those former champions who are now competing on the LIV Golf tour.
They include three-time Masters winning Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel and Watson, winner in 2012 and 2014.
Olazabal said: “August National has taken that road to allow those LIV players who have won the Masters to compete this year, so I have no problem with that.
“Yes, I am not on the DP World Tour or the PGA Tour and not playing full-time anymore, so I do not face that week-to-week scenario but I respect Augusta’s decision, so we will see what happens.
“So, I don’t see any animosity at the dinner, and certainly not on my part.
“And if Bubba Watson (now smiling) asks me to pass the salt or whatever, I will be happy to pass him whatever Bubba or any other of the fellow Masters winners wish for.
“Each one of us who sit down at the Former Champions Dinner are in the room that night as we have won at Augusta National and, as I said, I respect each and everyone in the room as they are fellow Masters winners, and also what they have achieved in their careers.
“The Masters is a special tournament and everyone in the room that night has earned the right to be at the dinner.”
And while not fully in agreement with Rahm, Olazabal is predicting it will not be long before both he and Sergio Garcia are joined by a third Masters winner in Rahm.
Olazabal said: “Jon certainly has the tools to win the Masters. He’s proven he can win majors and while Augusta National is a golf course that favours a draw off the tee, with his power he can take care of that.
“The rest of Jon’s game is pretty with his short-game superb, so he has to the game at Augusta and hopefully it won’t be too much longer and Spain will have another player being fitted with a Masters green jacket”.
Olazabal was taking with Irish Golfer Magazine at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, with European Ryder Cup captain, Luke Donald extending an invitation to Colin Montgomerie, Paul McGinley and himself to join him at this week’s inaugural Hero Cup
Monty led Europe to success in 2010 in Wales while Olazabal steered Europe to victory in the 2012 ‘Miracle at Medinah’ Ryder Cup, and McGinley two years later captained Europe to success at Gleneagles.
Olazabal said: “It was Luke’s suggestion to arrange for Monty, Paul and myself and we’re going to speak to all the players to give them an idea what team competition is all about and also relay some of the great stories we each have from being a past Ryder Cup captain.
“Though I have to say, there’s not too many players I know from my time on the DP World Tour apart from players like Shane (Lowry), Tommy (Fleetwood) and Francesco (Molinari).
“So, very much looking forward to meeting all the Hero Cup team members.”
Of course, 2018 winning European Team captain Thomas Bjorn is also present this week as one of Donald’s Rome vice-captains.
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