Ryder Cup LogoRyder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain talks to the press during a press conference prior to The 2006 Ryder Cup.

Olazábal ready to lead from Front

José Maria Olazábal, one of Europe's most experienced players is ready to lead from the front as Europe seek a third successive Ryder Cup victory.

Michael Gibbons, Press Officer
19 September 2006

As the two most experienced members of Europe’s 2006 Ryder Cup Team, and two of golf’s toughest competitors, it is difficult to escape the notion that José Maria Olazábal and Colin Montgomerie will be the most natural leaders in Ian Woosnam’s 12 man squad who are set to defend the Sam Ryder Trophy at The K Club.

The Spaniard and the Scot, who between them have played in 13 Ryder Cups and amassed a staggering 39 points, have the records and reputations to exert a massive influence on the European team, most notably on the two rookies in the side, the Swedes, Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson.

Karlsson and Stenson certainly do not need any tips on how to play the game – both qualified for the European Team with ease having each won two of The European Tour’s biggest events this season – but they are set to experience the unique atmosphere that makes The Ryder Cup one of sports biggest events, an atmosphere that you cannot prepare for no matter how many European Tour, PGA Tour or Major Championship events you have contested.

Olazábal, who made his debut 19 years ago at Muirfield Village when he and Seve Ballesteros began one of The Ryder Cups most famous partnerships as Tony Jackilin’s European Team won on American soil for the first time in the event’s history, acknowledges that very fact.

The 40 year old double Masters champion counts his Ryder Cup debut as his greatest experience in this wonderful event, and will look to ensure that Karlsson and Stenson are prepared for the fantastic levels of noise and emotionally charged support that will greet every shot they play at The K Club this week

“Well, the two rookies, you know, they are much bigger and much stronger than I am!” smiled Olazábal. “But we might help them on letting them know what they might be facing in the sense of atmosphere, matchplay situations, things like that. But I think apart from that, they are well experienced.”

Having arrived at Dublin Airport on Europe’s Team flight on Monday afternoon, Karlsson and Stenson are beginning to sense that The Ryder Cup is no ordinary golf tournament.

“We really started to focus when we got on the flight with all of our team mates,” said Karlsson. “When we got off the plane in Dublin, it was like, ‘okay, this is something special here’. This doesn't usually happen at the European Open. It was something different and especially coming in here, seeing all of the stands on the golf course. Normally we play here once a year and we never have this stage.

“So it's something special here and coming in to the media centre, I mean, everything is so much bigger than it normally is. So I guess now, I'll go take the chance to talk to more of the experienced players.”

The two Rookies in Woosnam’s side were paired together in the first practice session of the week at the K Club, and few will be surprised in Woosnam pitches them in to the heat of The Ryder Cup battle together.

“Well, it's probably an easy conclusion, but whether it's going to happen or not, I don't know,” Karlsson continued. “It really depends on both how both of us are feeling and how the rest of the team is playing.

“I've said before and I'll say it again, I think Woosie has got a good problem on his side to find pairings who work together because I think you have very, very many options, teams that have played very well in the past and also the new teams that could be working very, very well. So I think he's got a good task in front of him. He doesn't have to be afraid of mixing up players and he's not lacking options.”

Video Highlights

Darren Clarke Sunday Video Recap
Check out all the great highlights from Sunday's European victory. Watch

Memorable Moments

  • 1969: Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus on the final hole of the final day.