Olazabal makes right impression

Olazabal makes right impression

It may have been three months since Jose Maria Olazabal played a competitive round of golf, but he showed no signs of losing his touch as an opening-round one-under-par 70 at the Madrid Masters left him three shots off the lead.

The 42-year-old has been out of the game because of injury and fatigue since narrowly failing to qualify for the Open in June, but this comeback - his third during an injury-hit career - is on track.

Englishman Paul Broadhurst, Swede Magnus Carlsson and Australian Marcus Fraser are the leaders, having all shot 67s, and are hotly pursued by a cluster of five players, including French Open winner Pablo Larrazabal, who are one shot back on three-under.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, who would move to third in the European Tour Order of Merit if he wins here, is one of 15 players two shots behind on two-under.

Olazabal sent expectations soaring when he birdied his first hole - the 10th - and he was two under at the turn courtesy of birdies at 16 and 17 making up for a dropped shot on the 14th.

He picked up another birdie on the way back in, and even two more bogeys failed to take the gloss off an impressive score.

The two-time Masters champion said: "It has been a very positive day and my score is better than I expected.

"I made some mistakes - I three-putted on two greens - but other parts have been very good.

"I started the 10th hole, my first, with a birdie and I thought to myself 'This is good'.

"Who would believe that after so much time out of competition I make a birdie to start?

"Being back on the golf course has been weird. It's been a long while since I was in a competition and I have lost my rhythm.

"But I will do my best. It's not a 100-metre sprint but four long days on a very demanding golf course. It might seem easy but you have to play very well."

Joint leader Broadhurst is no stranger to enforced absences either, having been sidelined by a serious hand injury in 2000, and despite admitting his four-under-par 67 was not pretty at times, he was happy overall.

The 43-year-old said: "I just stuck in there really and had to make a couple of miracle shots to keep it ticking over.

"I had a couple of very poor tee shots on five and six but came back with another couple of birdies at the end and it's nice to finish four under.

"It doesn't get any easier even if you've been on the Tour for years and I'll be out practising this afternoon."

Carlsson, out early this morning, matched Broadhurst's efforts and is delighted to be seeing several weeks' hard work bear fruit.

"The last few weeks I've been working a lot on my game and have started believing in myself," he said.

"I had a good start in January but then missed a lot of cuts.

"I lost a play-off in Johannesburg and I made the mistake of thinking it was going to be easy. So I'm very happy with this score today."

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