Ollie ready for Ryder Cup raid
Jose Maria Olazabal (File)
Paris - Jose Maria Olazabal says he is no Seve, but he believes he has the firepower to emulate his great friend and countryman and lead a successful European defence of the Ryder Cup at Medinah.
After almost single-handedly reviving the biennial competition in the 1980s with his flair and fierce determination, Seve Ballesteros was omni-present on home Spanish turf at Valderrama in 1997 when he captained another European victory.
Olazabal was in the team on that occasion just as he had been alongside Ballesteros in many of his greatest triumphs in foursomes and fourballs.
Now, 16 months after Ballesteros died from a brain tumour, it is his turn to lead from the front, but this time on foreign soil.
The 46-year-old, who like Ballesteros hails from the northern Basque region of Spain, insists that his approach will be different.
"It's very difficult to compare to Seve in any way," he said. "He was really all over the place (at Valderrama) - I don't know how he managed to be in so many places at the same time to be honest.
"He was very close to the players, sometimes a little too close, trying to hit the shots. I'm not going to go that far."
Whatever approach he does take, Olazabal, twice winner of the Masters, but whose career was dogged by a rheumatoid condition in his feet, is already sure of total respect and support from his players.
"There will never be another Seve in terms of a talisman. The next best thing is to have Olazabal as the captain. He will deliver the Seve message," said former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher.
"He is not a golfer who is branded up like other golfers. He has very high morals, he won't sell himself. He is very strong-minded and this will come out next week."
The 12-man team Olazabal brings with him to Chicago on the face of it looks as good as any in recent times.
Gone are such as Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington, all stalwarts of the European team for the last 15 years.
But in have come a golden generation of younger European players who are now in their prime - Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and above all else the current best player in the world, 23-year-old Rory McIlroy.
Put them in the mix alongside such Ryder Cup rocks as Lee Westwood, winning his eighth cap, Sergio Garcia, taking his sixth, and Graeme McDowell who ensured the winning point at the 17th hole in the last match out two years ago at Celtic Manor, Newport and you have a powerful brew.
Eight of the 12 players have winning records in the Ryder Cup (against none in the US team) and recent history is on the European side having won six out of the last eight contests and four out of the last five.
Montgomerie also believes that Olazabal, who was one of his captain's assistants at Celtic Manor, got it right with his two wild card selections choosing Ian Poulter and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, who will be the only rookie in the European side.
"With Ian Poulter a shoo-in, the only decision Jose Maria had to make was between Padraig Harrington and Nicolas Colsaerts," the Scot said.
"In the end, he concluded that Colsaerts' combination of form and power was worth more than Harrington's experience in the event. Some people might disagree with his choice, but I'm not one of them. I think Olazabal made exactly the right call."
The European team has eight different nationalities this time with four English, two from Northern Ireland and one each from Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Scotland and Italy.
It also contains the youngest player in this year's competition - 23-year-old McIlroy and the second oldest - 43-year-old Paul Lawrie of Scotland.
For gorgeous gifts at gorgeous prices, click here for the ultimate Christmas gift guide from Clicks.