HIGHLAND, Scotland — The range at Castle Stuart was not a bustling one on Monday morning, but interestingly two headliners — Darren Clarke and Jose Maria Olazabal — were out working on their games, both trying to find something for this week and next.
Clarke, the 2012 Open Championship winner, was out hitting balls early and then presumably went out on the course to get a better feel for the Gil Hanse layout.
Clarke last played in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in 2011, the first year the event moved to Castle Stuart. After being in contention through two rounds at 8 under, just three shots off the lead of Peter Hanson, Scott Jamieson, Graeme McDowell and Peter Whiteford, the Ulsterman shot a third-round 75. That’d be his final round as weather forced the event to 54 holes.
The next week would produce a win at Royal St. George’s and Clarke’s only major championship. Clarke skipped Castle Stuart last year.
Olazabal’s early-week presence on the range is nothing new. When fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez walked on the range near 11 a.m., he was met by a ball boy who he asked how long Olazabal had been there.
The reply, “He beat me here.”
Unlike Clarke, Olazabal has not had any success on the European Tour since his last win at the Mallorca Classic in October 2005.
Since then, Olazabal has found playing golf very difficult. In his last eight seasons, Olazabal has had four top 10s and in the last seven seasons has not earned more than 270,421 euros.
“Not strange, no,” Olazabal said of being on the range early on Monday morning. “Especially when you miss the cut the week before.”
Which Olazabal did in Paris last week.
Missed cut or not, seeing a two-time major winner on the range with just four other players, with a logo-less black bag, no caddie and cleaning his own clubs, you know how far he has fallen and yet how committed he is to finding a winning formula again.
“No, that’s not an excuse anymore,” Olazabal said of his stint as the 2012 Ryder Cup captain taking away from his game. “I’ve had enough time to work on my game, just not being able to preform well that’s all.”
In the end Olazabal, who has no coach or entourage to support him, is trying to find his game the old-fashion way, by hitting balls and hopefully finding a key.
“Just struggling to find it,” Olazabal said. “That’s the way it is.”