On the Monday of the 1997 Masters, a young Tiger Woods trained with Severiano Ballesteros and Chema Olazabal. El Tigre wanted to absorb the wisdom of those two Spanish artists who did things with the ball that he could barely imagine. The two professors gave “a master class” to the novice. “His golf reminded me of the jazz improvisations my father was so fond of. He played that song in the car and I was into hip hop. Seve and Ollie were improvisational geniuses. They gave me a lesson in smart kicks,” recalls Woods. Tiger won that Masters, his first major, the beginning of the revolution. He started writing history learning from a Cantabrian and a Basque.
Seve was already a legend at the time, winner at Augusta in 1980 and 1983. And Olazabal donned his first green jacket in 1994 (his second in 1999). The unforgettable couple was the culmination of a long love affair between Augusta and Spanish golf, begun at the end of the fifties and during the sixties by the brothers Ángel and Sebastián Miguel and by Ramón Sota, Seve’s uncle, and continued until today with Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm. An umbilical cord unites each generation and this passion for the Masters is transmitted from one to another as from father to son.
Of the pioneers to date, 15 Spaniards have played in Augusta: Ángel Miguel, Sebastián Miguel, Ramón Sota, Seve Ballesteros, Antonio Garrido, Manuel Piñero, Chema Olazabal, Miguel Ángel Jiménez, Ignacio Garrido, Sergio García, Alejandro Larrazábal, Álvaro Quirós, Gonzalo Fernández -Castaño, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Jon Rahm.
The first point was given by Ángel Miguel in 1959, classified in 25th place in that debut of the Spanish Masters and out of court in the other four that he played. In 1961 he was joined in Augusta by his brother Sebastián, who also failed to surpass the barrier of the best in three editions. It was Ramón Sota, debuting in 1964, who would fly the Spanish flag the following year, with a sixth place, which at the time was the best ranking for a European in the history of the tournament. On that course in 1965, the three big names took the podium: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. “Those who haven’t seen Augusta can’t imagine it”, recalled Sota in an interview with EL PAÍS in 2011.
From one milestone to another, the first European Masters victory was achieved by Seve in 1980, three years after his debut. An era had begun. Ballesteros, Olazabal, Sergio García… “Of the big four, the Masters differs by course and the type of specialization it requires. Today all golfers hit the ball hard, but in Augusta the key is the irons and the short game, and we Spaniards have always been strong in that aspect”, explains Olazabal. The Basque is the Spaniard with the most participations in the Masters, 34 (this time he didn’t go through the cut, and as any champion has the right to play it for life), with 28 for Seve, 24 for Sergio García and 16 for Miguel Ángel Jiménez .
This chain of emotions is symbolized better than anyone else by Antonio Garrido and Ignacio Garrido, the only Spanish father and son couple to have played in the Masters, in 1978 and 1998 respectively (in the history of the tournament, this family coincidence has occurred 13 times). “Augusta is a field where Spaniards enjoy. It’s open, you can leave without so much pressure, and the enjoyment is so great that you’re left with a special desire. I wanted to pass that love on to my son Nacho”, says Antonio today.
Garrido’s generation partner Mr. it was Pepín Rivero, who never managed to qualify for the Masters but who somehow lived his own Augusta when he mentored Álvaro Quirós as a coach. Cádiz competed in the competition four times, being the leader after the first day of 2011 tied with Rory McIlroy (who would finish in 27th place). “It is a field that since the tee He is generous and very demanding to the point of green. Olazabal was never a particularly accurate player from the start, but by the time he won the Masters he was a lethal machine with the irons”, revives Quirós. “Augusta is a course where you have to be very precise in your shot. green and not necessarily as much tee. Seven could have won anywhere, as could Sergio García. And also the Masters is the big one that, in quotes, is easier to win because it plays less than the others. At a British Open, PGA or US Open, the range is wider”, adds Quirós, who on these excursions surprised with his stroke.
Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño, a participant in three Masters seasons and 26th in 2014 as the best result, highlights the emotional aspect of a tournament that for a long time grew in the Spanish collective imagination as something similar to a dream, a kind of golf Eden in which a young man from Pedreña suddenly erupted with boundless energy. “For that generation that barely watched the Masters in Spain, which was broadcast on Canal+ at a thousand at night, and who only saw the second nine holes, there was a certain mysticism surrounding the tournament. And the fact that Seve was the first Spaniard and European to win it made him transmit this passion for the Masters to us. So Olazabal inherited that love and passed it on to other players like Sergio and Jon. It’s a very special week of the year for Spaniards. It’s like the Ryder Cup. Seve and Olazabal’s work made something very symbolic for us. The same thing happens with the Augusta Masters”, comments Gonzalo.
On April 2, 1959, the Madrid-born Ángel Miguel began writing a tradition in a distant land of Spain. The passage of years, the triumphs and mystique of the Masters fueled this passion. Traveling to Augusta is still like traveling back in time. Every spring, everything is still in the same place. And the fairy tale begins again. There are eternal loves.
Augusta Masters Ranking.
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