I’M A LONGTIME ADMIRER of Jose Maria Olazabal, who is being reported as Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain, according to various media outlets. The official announcement is expected on Tuesday at the Abu Dhabi Championship.
If Olazabal’s captaincy in any way mirrors his play in seven Ryder Cup appearances, Europe is in very capable hands. Olazabal was Seve Ballesteros’ other half of the most successful partnership in Cup history. Beginning in 1987, I watched Seve and Ollie beat the spikes off America’s best. The pair only lost twice in 15 matches. I didn’t like it one bit. But I always respected Jose Maria’s game. His driving could be suspect, but his iron game, chipping and putting were a thing of beauty. I’ve always thought of him as one of golf’s toughest competitors.
Olazabal also later formed a successful Ryder Cup partnership with Sergio Garcia. (If Garcia had Ollie’s grit, he’d have bagged a few majors by now.)
Now 44 and plagued in recent years by injuries, the two-time Masters winner is primed for the captaincy. He was a vice captain for European captains Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie at the last two Ryder Cups. His record as a player and experience as a vice captain have earned him a ton of respect in the locker room.
“When Jose Maria conducts a team talk or motivational talk, everyone listens,” Lee Westwood was quoted as saying by BBC Sport.
At the helm when Europe lost at Valhalla, Nick Faldo said competing on American soil presents additional challenges. (The 2012 Ryder Cup will be played at Medinah in Chicago.) Home-field advantage and course setup are huge factors.
“I think you need a big captain when you go to the States,” Faldo said.
Olazabal is the right man for the job.
−The Armchair Golfer
(Photo credit: Richard Carter, Flickr, Creative Commons license)