Gleneagles, Scotland: Jose Maria Olazabal, the Europe captain, has revealed he is relying on passion, power and perseverance to pull off an away victory in the Ryder Cup for just the second time in eight matches.
While the two wild cards he named — Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts — will deliver the first two of those qualities, he now believes Martin Kaymer will provide the fight.
The German has been playing so poorly that the word on the range is that he was considering pulling out of next month’s biennial dust-up, even though he clung on to the last qualifying position. But Olazabal came up with the perfect pep talk, reminding him how he himself had gone through the same dilemma before the 1993 match at The Belfry.
“I was struggling and called Seve Ballesteros and told him ‘anyone could play better than me. I am thinking of not going’,” recalled Olazabal, who played in seven Ryder Cups. “It was a good job I was on the end of a phone or Seve would have smashed my face in.
“The fact is, once you get there, your team members around, the atmosphere, sometimes that’s enough to lift your spirits. For two days you have one guy alongside you and that touch on the shoulder, that camaraderie — well, you fight for each other, like your life is on the line.
“I have spoken to Martin about it and he has been working hard on his game since the USPGA. He is persevering and it will be nice to see some results on the golf course. Martin has earned his place and I am sure he will be there.”
Padraig Harrington concurred with Olazabal in this regard. He told The Daily Telegraph he would not have wanted a place at the German’s expense. “He is a big tournament player and I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes off first on the Friday morning, he’s got that much class,” he said. “I still believe in him.”
As widely predicted, Harrington was overlooked for the big-hitting Colsaerts, who will become the first Belgian to play in the Ryder Cup. Olazabal went to Medinah two weeks ago and, apart from the 7,600-yardage, he also noticed that the rough was being kept to a minimum.
“It’s a long-hitter’s course and his power will obviously be an asset,” said Olazabal. “But he does a lot of other things as well as hitting the ball a long way. His matchplay record is very good, he’s had a very solid season and on top of that he’s made the extra effort to qualify. He really showed me that he wants to be a part of that team.”
Despite Colsaerts being the obvious choice, Olazabal felt obliged to phone Harrington. He admitted it was the hardest call to make, not least because so much was made of a supposed spat between the pair, which stretched back to the 2003 Seve Trophy.
“I felt I needed to make that call more to him than anybody else,” he said. “I was very straight to the point. I know he tried hard. He played well at The Masters, he had a good US Open, but he was 19th on the list.
“I know he’s a great player. I would have loved to have him on the team, but you need to be playing good, simple as that. I think he took it well.” Poulter’s selection was one of the most inevitable in the Ryder Cup’s 85-year history. Ladbrokes priced him at 1-500 to earn his third cap and those odds seemed appropriate when Olazabal dished out the praise to the Englishman.
“His attitude and his spirit in the Ryder Cup team has always been great,” said Olazabal. “The two times I had the opportunity to share a few moments with him when I was an assistant captain at Valhalla and Celtic Manor, I immediately recognised you didn’t need to motivate him. Just by looking at his eyes, you knew he would give everything he had all week. That’s Ian.”
So Olazabal’s team is set and it is difficult to think of another captain who enjoyed such a straightforward selection. With Colsaerts the only rookie in the dozen, Olazabal is blessed with experience and a fine mix of long-game merchants and short-game demons. Understandably, the Spaniard is confident of, at the very least, giving Davis Love’s men a testing time in Chicago.
“I really don’t see any favourites in this Ryder Cup,” said Olazabal, disagreeing with the bookmakers, who have America as odds-on favourites. “Both teams are very strong. If you look at what Nick Watney did at Bethpage, I think Davis has a new contender for a pick.”
Love will name his four wild cards next week and, after Watney’s win at The Barclays on Sunday and Brandt Snedeker’s third place, there is a real chance that Hunter Mahan will not be given the opportunity for redemption following his final-match defeat to Graeme McDowell two years ago. Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk are almost assured of their berths, while Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson are also in the frame.
— The Daily Telegraph