Golf-Olazabal named 2012 European Ryder Cup captain

Reuters

Tue, 18 Jan 14:20:00 2011

* Popular Spaniard takes over from Montgomerie

* Describes new role as biggest challenge

Jose Maria Olazabal, who along with fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros helped bring a new generation of fans to the Ryder Cup, will captain Europe in the 2012 event in Medinah, near Chicago.

In a widely-expected move, the popular 44-year-old veteran of seven Ryder Cups as a player succeeds Colin Montgomerie who stepped down after leading Europe to victory over United States in the 2010 edition of the biennial team event in Wales.

"It is huge for me to be the next captain... I think it's going to be the biggest challenge of my career," Olazabal told a news conference ahead of this week's Abu Dhabi Championship.

"I've had a pretty solid professional career but the Ryder Cup is very special to me and to be the captain... there is only one go at it and I will try to be as successful as possible.

"Golf has been my life and representing Europe in the Ryder Cup has given me so much enjoyment so to be named captain is something very special and I am looking forward to the next 20 months," he added.

Olazabal, who formed the competition's most successful partnership alongside Ballesteros, said he had spoken to his great friend and the 1997 European skipper about the role.

"Without question the Ryder Cup has given me many memorable times, especially with Seve from the moment we were first partners in 1987 and Europe won in America for the first time," said the double U.S. Masters winner.

"We were unbeaten in 1989 and 1991 and we won our last match together in 1993. I spoke to Seve and I let him know and he was delighted."

Having ended a 28-year spell of U.S. dominance at The Belfry in 1985, Europe triumphed again at Muirfield Village two years later on Olazabal's debut to record their first away win in an event that began in 1927 when the Americans took on Britain and Ireland.

INFECTIOUS ENTHUSIASM

Olazabal's spontaneous jig of joy on the 18th green after that victory in Ohio is one of the Ryder Cup's most memorable moments as his infectious enthusiasm helped sweep away the dusty image that had dogged the sport for so long.

In his remarkable partnership with Ballesteros the duo won 11, halved two and lost two of their 15 matches.

The Spaniards became the heart and soul of the European team that enjoyed a wonderful run of success on both sides of the Atlantic.

They helped propel the Ryder Cup and European golf to a new level of interest and the pair were instrumental in the competition being held in mainland Europe for the first time when it went to Spain in 1997.

However it has not all been plain sailing for Olazabal, who has been dogged by injury and ill-health which, at its worst, kept him out of the game for two years with rheumatoid arthritis in his feet in the mid-1990s.

His final Ryder Cup appearance as a player came when he won all three of his matches in the crushing 2006 European victory in Ireland and he has struggled to play a run of regular tournaments in recent seasons.

Olazabal was Nick Faldo's assistant in the 2008 event and, having missed out to Montgomerie for the captain's role at Celtic Manor last year, was again brought in as a deputy.

Several players said they were inspired by his emotional address before the final day's singles.

Montgomerie wasted little time in recommending him as his successor and he should help continue the wonderful team spirit that has been a key feature of European teams over the years.

The U.S. are set to announce their new captain later this week, with Davis Love III widely tipped to succeed Corey Pavin.

 

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