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Olazabal Next European Ryder Cup Captain?
Various reports out of Europe are indicating that Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain is the front-runner for the 2012 captain's position on the European Ryder Cup team. In two years the Euros will be seeking to retain the cup - which they won this past Monday - at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.
Olazabal would replace Colin Montgomerie. Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion, has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, which has sidelined from competition for much of the 2010 season. The disease, which has been bad enough at times that the 44-year-old Olazabal can't walk, may be improving such that he will return to the golf course later in October.
While lending his support for Olazabal, Montgomerie said he has no desire to return to the captain's position, saying his role is "a one-time, one-off hit now."
Olazabal attended the matches at Celtic Manor in Wales, and was a presence in the locker room. "He watched what was done this time, he has notes over his playing career the same as mine," Monty told reporters. "We both played eight Ryder cups, a lot of them together, so he has a lot of experience, as much as I have, and I am sure he will do as good, if not a better, job than I did."
For his part, Olazabal said that if his health improves and he rejoins the European Tour, he would relish taking the job at Medinah. "We have talked about it but there is just one issue and that is my health. I would love to do it, but you have to fulfill certain things. You need to be close to the players and play with them during the qualifying process, that is why there is the only question mark."
Olazabal, who was a vice-captain to Nick Faldo at the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, which was won by the Americans, originally turned down Monty's offer to serve that role again, but changed his mind once he got to Wales.
"This was the first time I have been a vice-captain at the Ryder Cup on this side of the Atlantic and I could feel the difference, the crowd support, the atmosphere. The Ryder Cup is a special and unique event and it has been great to be a part of it," he said.
There are few players with the credentials of Olazabal's to lead the European squad. One possibility, Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, has no intention of even trying for the captaincy. "I want to try and play another one if I can," said Clarke, who was another of Montgomerie's vice-captains.
"Jose Maria has been battling illness but if he can come back to proper form then all of Europe and all of this team would welcome him as captain in two years' time."
Padraig Harrington also supports the Spaniard. "I think Olly would be all the players' choice. I don't think Monty wants to do it again and Olly has had a great Ryder Cup career - he brings a lot of passion to the game and he looks like he'd make a great captain but it's a tough job."
One other consideration and another vice-captain at Celtic Manor, Ireland's Paul McGinley, is also a strong candidate to be captain. But McGinley's likely ascension would be when the Ryder Cup comes to Gleneagles in Scotland in 2014.
Monty Crashes Hard
Montgomerie said he left the celebration party by the Europeans early Tuesday morning, saying he was "just knackered."
The party was in full swing when he departed Celtic Manor. "I left about 12.30 a.m. and it was still going strong. I left the trophy with Lee Westwood, who was on stage singing with it, and that was the last I saw of it until this morning when it came down polished and un-fingerprinted and unbashed, thank goodness."
He added that sleep was a rarity during the Ryder Cup. "I haven't needed the alarm clock this week, I've been up and about before 5 a.m. with nerves and anxiety, but I needed it this morning," he said.
Montgomerie recalled his most emotional moment came in the locker room while he reading his speech for the closing ceremony. "I couldn't get the words out in a practice I had in a quiet moment. I thought I was going to find it very difficult to stand up in front of all those people and a television audience to get those words out, but it was okay.
"I wasn't crying on the 17th green after we won, that was the champagne somebody sprayed that got in my eyes. I couldn't see for a couple of minutes, because champagne stings when it gets in your eyes."