Slick Masters conditions remind Olazabal of 1999
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Jose Maria Olazabal's victory at the 1999 Masters is often referenced as the last time Augusta National played fast and firm throughout the tournament but the Spaniard believes this year's edition could match it.
Despite the heavy rain and lightning on Monday that forced practice to be suspended after just two hours, the heavily contoured layout has since quickened in pace after four successive days of bright sunshine and swirling winds.
Only 19 players in the field of 97 broke par in Thursday's opening round and, with conditions becoming even tougher on Friday, Olazabal predicted that very few were likely to dip under 72 in Sunday's final round.
"Today the greens were getting firmer and with this wind, if it stays like this, we are going to see some really fast, fast putts," the 48-year-old Spaniard told Reuters after carding a second successive two-over-par 74.
"If it stays dry and they don't water the greens, the course is going to be very close to how it was in 1999.
"When we teed off in the morning, for the first seven or eight holes it was all right and there was no wind. But it really started to blow when we got to nine."
Sunny, breezy conditions have been forecast for the next two days and Olazabal had no doubts about how difficult it would be for the contenders as the year's opening major approached its finale.
"If conditions stay like this, I don't see many guys breaking par," smiled the Spaniard, a double Masters champion who has piled up 23 European Tour wins in a glittering career. Continued...