It was 09:15 in the morning on the first tee at the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, a cool 14 degrees Celsius and the star match of Tuesday’s practice rounds was about to tee it up. There were 58 European Tour victories between the four players on the tee. On the one hand, the “old school” José María Olazábal (23) and Miguel Ángel Jiménez (21), and on the other, the “young guns” Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño (7) and Álvaro Quirós (7).
Of course, the banter and the jokes were already flying no sooner had ‘El Pisha’ lit his first cigar of the day, when he was still warming up on the putting green. Everything was in place for the fourball to enjoy a cut-throat, Ryder Cup-style, matchplay battle. All that was left was to decide what to play for, and after rejecting the idea of a wager, they all agreed that the losing pair would pay for dinner tonight.
“I fancy some percebes and a good wine…”
“Don’t forget the langoustines…”
“How am I gonna enjoy my meal sitting next to these two…?”
The jibes were already flying moments before Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño got things underway by smashing his drive down the middle of the first fairway. Quirós, however, was not happy that the Madrid native had the honour, insisting that they should have “given it to the elderly gentlemen”.
It looked as if it might be walk in the park for the young team as they won the first hole with a stunning birdie from Fernández-Castaño, but that would soon change as neither Olazábal nor Jiménez were about to give up, quite the opposite in fact, as they managed to take the match up the 18th hole.
With everything still to play for, the young team being one up, the final hole of the black course at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid would provide the stage for the grand finale of this spectacular duel. And Fernández-Castaño was the first faller after a poor tee shot left him stymied. The veterans earned themselves two good chances of a birdie compared to one for Quirós. The first to play was Olazábal, who missed his putt, putting the pressure on his partner. Then, Quirós stepped up to his putt for the match, also missing; now all eyes were on Jiménez.
With percebes, a good glass of wine and langoustines going through his mind, he had to hole a 12-foot putt to tie and ‘go Dutch’ at dinner, and the great Captain Olazábal was on hand to help read the green.
The spectacular grandstand behind the 18th green was empty, but the tension was palpable. Silence… Jiménez stroked the ball away… and it slipped by!
In the end, victory went to the young guns, but the important thing is that they enjoyed a great day’s golf among friends on a course in spectacular condition.
The four stars of the match were in good humour when they spoke to us afterwards: