Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Olazabal ready to let 'clubs do the talking' at Ryder Cup

TURIN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 12: Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain plays a shot during the pro-am prior to the start of the BMW Italian open at Royal Park Golf & Country Club on September 12, 2012 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Jose Maria Olazabal is one of that special breed who revel in the fire and brimstone of Ryder Cup play and he certainly has no fears for his team as they prepare to enter the cauldron in Chicago.





As for making the captain's address at the Ryder Cup opening ceremony in Medinah on Thursday week, now that's a different matter for the European skipper.



Olazabal (46) will be as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs when he steps onto the podium and introduces his team to the watching world.



"For sure, that's the part I feel more uncomfortable with," admitted the Spaniard at the BMW Italian Open in Turin yesterday.



"Obviously, it's not our cup of tea, in the sense that we are not used to talking in front of millions of people week in, week out.



"It's tough," he added. "You don't want to forget anyone and you've to thank the right people. Obviously we are used to hitting tee shots, chips and putts, but this is different."



Olazabal is a seasoned Ryder Cup campaigner, playing seven times before working as vice-captain to Nick Faldo at Valhalla four years ago and again under Colin Montgomerie in Wales.



He's renowned in Europe for delivering inspirational locker-room orations, while his 2009 induction speech at the World Golf Hall of Fame moved many to tears.



Yet witnessing at first hand the car-wreck of a captain's address delivered by Nick Faldo four years ago must have left Olazabal in no doubt about the potential pitfalls of public speaking.



Sam Torrance ensured he was well coached in oratory before the Belfry in 2002, but one can only assume Sir Nick made a solo run in Louisville.



Faldo infamously introduced Soren Hansen as Soren Stenson, said Padraig Harrington had hit as many golf balls as potatoes had been picked in Ireland, and asked Graeme McDowell if the was Irish or Northern Irish during a speech which set the tone for his captaincy.



Olazabal declined to say yesterday if he'd sought advice, but the fastidious Spaniard, doubtless drawing inspiration from his late friend and mentor Seve, is expected to touch all bases at Medinah.



There was a hint of Ballesteros about the brilliant seven-under-par 65 Olazabal posted yesterday in what was his final round before the Ryder Cup.



Remarkably, Olazabal hit just three fairways, but his iron play and short game were sublime as he posted his best round score since the Castello Masters in November 2009.



Dogged by injury in the seven years since the most recent of his 23 European Tour victories at the 2005 Mallorca Classic, Olazabal bore a contented air last night as he headed home to Fuenterrabia for a week's rest.



"It's come a year too late," he joked when complimented on his performance. "It was intense off the tee, but I enjoyed the rest of it. I'm having a tough time hitting fairways with driver or three-wood and if you don't hit fairways, you're going to struggle."



Not if you hit as few putts, just 21, as Olazabal yesterday. Now he's planning to "stay at home for the week, just chilling out and making a few calls to check that everything is in place.



"I'll just talk to the PGA people and my team to see everything is spot on," he added. "Thomas Bjorn and Jamie Spence will be on site in Chicago from Friday and they'll give me some information on the set-up of the course.



"I'll also keep an eye on how the boys are playing in Atlanta," where world No 1 McIlroy this week hopes to complete his thrilling recent run by winning the $10m FedEx Cup bonus at America's Tour Championship.



Olazabal is delighted with the recent form of McIlroy and fellow Europeans, including an aggressive final-day flourish at the Italian Open by Martin Kaymer, captain's pick Nicolas Colsaerts and Francesco Molinari, the latter rebounding from Saturday's off-colour 76 with a superb 65.



"Let's hope they'll be able to play the same way in a couple of weeks," grinned Olazabal, whose captaincy owes more to Monty than Faldo in his choice of four assistants, against just one by the Englishman.



"Diversity is important," said Olazabal. "I think we have all kinds of players -- long hitters, steady hitters, players with a lot of heart and guts -- and it's the same with the vice-captains.



"We've four different guys. Two of them, Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez, might have a similar philosophy of life, but Thomas Bjorn is a different person and so is Paul McGinley, so it's looking good."



All four would make perfect captains in their own right, Olazabal enthused. "We've a bunch of maybe six or seven good people. Yet with the Ryder Cup played every second year, the opportunities are too few."



He hasn't entirely relinquished playing on this exalted stage in the future, saying: "I've gone to two Ryder Cups without my clubs, but there's nothing quite like being a player at the Ryder Cup. It'd be difficult to do but we dream on."



Unlike US captain Davis Love III, who's invited sporting icons Michael Jordan, a member of Medinah, and Michael Phelps to join his team, Olazabal will have no surprise celebrities on hand at Medinah.



"No," he said. "I think our clubs will have to do the talking."

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