ABU DHABI: Spanish star Jose Maria Olazabal was named on Tuesday to lead Europe’s Ryder Cup defence against the United States next year in Medinah, Chicago. Announcing the captaincy ahead of the Abu Dhabi Championship, George O’Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, said that the popular Olazabal had been a unanimous choice for the key position replacing Colin Montgomerie. The 44-year-old from Spain’s Basque country, a veteran of seven Ryder Cups as player and the last two as vice-captain, called it “one of the greatest challenges of his career.” The two-time Masters champion said: “You all know how much the Ryder Cup has meant to me in my career. I dedicated 25 years of my life as a professional golfer. I played seven Ryder Cups and as I said, the Ryder Cup is welded deep in my heart.“This is a huge responsibility to be the next captain, and also, I have to say that it’s I think one of the biggest challenges, if not the biggest challenge I will have in my career, especially at this time of my career. All I can say is that I will try to do the best that I can, try to be close to the players. I’ve had a pretty solid professional career, but as I said, The Ryder Cup is very special to me. To be the captain of the 2012 Ryder Cup there is only one goal for it, and I will try to be as successful as possible, and you know, you have only one shot at it.” One of the immediate differences in the thought processes of Olazabal and most other captains was the kind of changes he wanted to make in the qualification system.
Unlike others, he actually wants to reduce the number of Captain’s picks to two, instead of three during Colin Montgomerie’s tenure. “We are going to sit down and chat about the changes in the qualification system. I have a couple of things in my mind, but I don’t think I will change it drastically, anyways,” said Olazabal. “I can assure you that I’m not asking for any extra picks. I’m going to be clear on that straightaway. If anything, I’ll try to reduce it back to two. Yo know, the more picks you get, the less value I think you give to the players that finish from eight to ten, and I think to finish in the top 10, you have to play great golf, and it was proven the last time. To make the top 10, you need to have an extremely great year. And it would be a shame to tell any of those guys, you’re not in.”One of the reasons Olazabal was hesitating taking on the job was his continuous battle with rheumatism, which reduced his playing schedule in 2010 to just three tournaments. But he said he was feeling much better now, and has in fact entered for all four weeks on the Desert Swing starting with the Abu Dhabi Championship this week. “My health was the main concern. Regarding that, I have to say that in the last couple of months, since I played Valderrama last year, I felt a noticeable improvement in my health condition and good health prevailing, there should be no problem. I’m feeling much better and that’s the reason why I said yes,” added Olazabal.
Olazabal’s ascension was a foregone conclusion. During the run-up following Europe’s narrow win at the Celtic Manor last year, not even a single name had cropped up in any discussions. Thomas Bjorn, who chairs the European Tour Tournament Players Committee said it was a tribute to the immense popularity of Olazabal and the respect he generates that there wasn’t event the need to hold the TPC meeting before the announcement. Bjorn said: “Coming out of the Ryder Cup in Wales, also the Ryder Cup in Ireland, there was a great feeling that there was one man that needed to do the job and sooner rather than later.“Speaking to players on Tour and speaking to committee members, it was probably the easiest decision we’ve ever have to make for Ryder Cup Captain. And it’s a little bit out of the way compared to how we normally do it. But there was a general feeling from the whole membership that Jose needed to be the next captain. We didn’t feel that we needed to sit in a committee meeting and discuss this. Jose is highly respected from his fellow professionals. His passion for Ryder Cup really stands out. He is probably one of the very few players that all of the players on Tour associate with what the Ryder Cup is all about – the passion and the determination – Dailytimes