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Olazabal knows how tough America is

Updated: Wednesday, 13 Apr 2011 12:43

Jose Maria Olazabal has won just one Ryder Cup in the USA back in 1987
Jose Maria Olazabal has won just one Ryder Cup in the USA back in 1987

Jose Maria Olazabal speaks from bitter experience about how tough it can be to contest a Ryder Cup on American soil.

Europe's new captain has to go back to his 1987 debut for his only taste of winning an away match, so he is not underestimating the size of the task next year.

Olazabal was on the losing side as a player in 1991 and 1999 and then as vice-captain to Nick Faldo three years ago - and he was also centrally involved in the biggest controversy in cup history.

That was the storming of the 17th green in Boston 12 years ago when the Americans went way over the top in their celebrations of a long putt by Justin Leonard.

Olazabal still had a putt to keep the match alive, but amid the rowdy scenes he missed it.

‘I know Brookline was very loud, but I tell you what - Chicago is a very loud city,’ he told Press Association Sport after being named as Colin Montgomerie's successor yesterday.

‘If I have to be honest things are easier when you are playing at home.

‘We know that Medinah will be set up for US standards, the crowds there are very passionate about their teams and it's going to be more difficult.

‘But at the same time we do have players that are playing great and hopefully they will keep their form for the Ryder Cup.

‘If that is the case, all we can do is fight to the end and hopefully we will keep the trophy.’

How that team is made up remains to be seen, but Olazabal has already shown he is his own man and will not simply try to copy everything Montgomerie did.

The Scot had the number of wild cards increased from two to three, although he still ended up leaving out Paul Casey and Justin Rose after they, Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington all chose to stay in the States rather than return to Europe for the final two weeks of qualifying.

Olazabal wants only two picks and states: ‘If you manage to finish in the top five on the world ranking list (last year it was just the top four who earned automatic spots) and the top five on the European Tour you must have had a great year and I think you deserve to be on the team.

‘I've talked to Thomas (tournament committee chairman Thomas Bjorn) and obviously now we have to sit down with the committee and see if that is possible or not, but that's my desire.

‘I also hope there won't be another battle over the players coming back to Europe.’

Davis Love is expected to be named America's captain tomorrow and Olazabal commented:
‘We've known each other for many years and have played in a lot of Ryder Cups together (the head-to-head count is 4-1 in the Spaniard's favour, although they never met in singles).

‘I know he is a true gentleman and respects the game, respects the rules and respects the players. He will be a great captain if that is the case.’

Olazabal will be guided by the inspiration of his former partner Seve Ballesteros in every step he takes.

‘I saw the way he fought until the end and his passion for winning. It's something I've carried on, or at least I've tried to keep with me.

‘I would love him to be able to travel to Chicago and stand alongside me, but being realistic I think those chances are very slim.’

Ballesteros, of course, is still under treatment after four brain tumour operations, but he believes Europe are ‘in very good hands.’

The man with whom Olazabal won 11 and lost only two of 15 games together said: ‘We will have a great leader heading a fantastic group of players.

‘I suppose that it will be very difficult for me to be in the United States and witness the captaincy of my dear friend, but I hope to watch it on TV and see his success.’

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