Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Olazabal a Victor in the Long Walk Back

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Olazabal a Victor in the Long Walk Back

Article excerpt

Just months ago, Jose Maria Olazabal thought he might never see Augusta National again - at least not from a standing position. Once considered the brightest star on golf's horizon, the Spaniard had been forced to stop playing the game altogether. Still, the mysterious and debilitating pain in his feet got worse.

Bad enough that he couldn't walk a fairway - he couldn't walk at all. As the needles and pins became more prominent, he feared he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

"That's how bad it was," Olazabal, 31, said. "There's always a low point. You cannot keep the same amount of hope each day. You're going to have ups and downs. It's difficult to point to one particular time that was the worst, but, you know . . . "You're 31 years old, you've exercised hard all your life, you've been able to do whatever you wanted to - play football, jog, exercise - and, all of a sudden, you see that you cannot walk at all. It's been very tough." Which is why it is so invigorating for Olazabal, the 1994 Masters champion, to be in residence once more on Magnolia Drive. After 18 months away from the game, he has been able to return in recent weeks. And, this week, he gets reacquainted with the place of his greatest victory. "I knew it was going to be special, very nice memories," Olazabal said. "The place is a unique place. It's always in perfect condition, and the scenery around here is really beautiful. I mean, I'm trying to cope with it. It's only practice days, and, when the tournament starts, it's going to be even tougher to cope with the emotions. I'll do my best." Olazabal's comeback, to this point, has been astounding. The turnaround began when a friend suggested that he see a German doctor who specialized in alternative treatments. For months, Olazabal's condition had been diagnosed by both Spanish doctors and the Mayo Clinic as rheumatoid arthritis. Munich-based Dr. Hans Wilhelm-Muller-Wohlfart, who also has treated tennis stars Steffi Graf and Boris Becker, thought a hernia in Olazabal's back was at the root of the problem. A new diet and a program of massages, hot baths and stretching slowly made a difference. …

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