An Interview With: JOSE MARIA OLAZ?BAL
18 September 2006
SCOTT CROCKETT: JOSÉ Maria, thank you very much for joining us as always. Experienced Ryder Cup player, give us your thoughts going into this week, you must be excited to be back representing Europe again.
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Yes, I'm really excited. It's been seven years since the last time I played. It's almost like starting over again.
Also, we had a nice trip back to The K Club. Overall the feeling so far it's relaxed and I'm really happy to be part of the team again. I missed the last two, and it's always nice to be a part of an event as big as this one, very special.
SCOTT CROCKETT: It may have been seven years, but you never forget, do you?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, the only thing is that the last time I played, I was one of the youngest players on the team and now I'm one of the oldest.
Q. How is your form and how did you think you played last week, was it close to what you wanted?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: You know, it was pretty good. The driving I wasn't pleased with. The rest of the game, it was pretty much acceptable. That's my main goal this next three days before the Ryder Cup starts, just to somehow figure out to hit more fairways off the tee and, you know, see what happens off that.
Q. Are you working with Butch this week?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Yeah, Butch is coming this week. I don't know if he's getting in tomorrow or Wednesday, but I'll spend some time with Butch, yeah.
Q. A thought about pairings for the week, I know Ian Woosnam was texting a lot of the players to see who they would like to play with, can you give us any thoughts on any potential pairings coming off?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I told him I don't have any presences, I can play with whoever. I think I'm a pretty easy guy in that department. You know, I know some players better than others obviously, but I feel comfortable playing with, you know, pretty much everybody.
Q. Which is your best memory from all of the Ryder Cup Matches you've played?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I would say that the first time I played, '87. It's very hard to just say the best moment, but that was a totally new experience to me. I played with Seve, the first two days, all foursomes and four.balls. Actually, we managed to win, but actually standing on this first tee, the first day, playing with Seve and playing in the Ryder Cup it was a very, very special moment.
Q. The Americans in recent years, it's been said they don't have much team spirit and seems like they don't even care about the event. Do you think that seems different this time around and that they have bonded better as a team?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I think they care, and they have cared in the past. And I think they care this time. I'm pretty sure that their more eager to do well this time because of what happened the last two editions.
We are all competitors, and none of us likes to lose. I know they are fighters. I know they have come with one goal, and that one is pretty simple, trying to beat us. We're going to have to play really, really well if we want to keep that trophy with us. It's not going to be an easy task. They have a very strong team. Some people have suggested that we are stronger than they are. I wouldn't agree with that completely. I think that both teams are really strong. Even though they have four rookies who made the team in the United States, you have to finish Top.10 to get points. And if you manage to make the team, it means that you can play golf.
So you know, it's not going to be, as I said, an easy task for us. I think the people that are suggesting that we are stronger than they are, I think they are not completely right.
Q. Ryder Cup fans have long memories and some of them remember obviously what happened at Brookline a few years ago. Do you think someone like Tom Lehman may pay for that this week? Do you think some of the Irish fans ..
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No chance. I haven't played the last two times on the Ryder Cup, but I know the atmosphere has been excellent. I think that's how this tournament should be played. I think events like the one at Kiawah, that type of approach to the event I think is completely wrong. I think that that has been changed.
Even though as I said I haven't played the last two times, but talking to the boys that have played, they told me that the atmosphere is the right one now. We go out there, we play golf, we try to beat our opponents. If we do so, okay; if not, you know, we shake hands and we go forward.
So the winner always has to be the game, the game itself. We have to keep that in perspective.
Q. Can I ask you something about the captains? The captains always try and downplay their own roles and say it's the players out there that settle the Ryder Cup. What role do you believe the captains play? Can they lose the Ryder Cup as well as win it?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: To be honest I've always been a believer that the players are the ones that hit the ball. Obviously the captains can do certain things to improve the team. You know, maybe pairing some players that have chemistry and they work very well. That's always the part of the captain's job.
The captain's job is also to know how the players are feeling with their games, talk to the players, see what they think, and with all of that information, just put the right players to play. You know, apart from that, once you get on the golf course, it's up to the players.
Q. Apart from being now one of the older members of the team, I wonder if you could ..
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Thank you very much for that point.
Q. What are some of the challenges to you coming back to the Ryder Cup having not played in the last two, what do you see as a big challenge for you over the next week?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, you know, I don't think I have many challenges to be honest. I know apart from everyone I will have to try to play, you know, great golf during the tournament. But I think that I know as I said, you know, every member of the team played together and I'm sure that we're going to try to make life as easy as possible within the team.
So I'm pretty sure that they are going to help me trying to feel comfortable on the team, and I'm going to try to do exactly the same.
Q. You chose not to play the final event in Germany. First of all, was the bird hunting successful, and will you be having words with Monty after his comments?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I've already kissed him on the cheek twice.
Q. What with? (Laughter).
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No, I mean, there's no hard feelings at all. He made, you know, certain points, but I think the media actually, you like to somehow make a big thing out of a few words, and I think it was more that than anything else. If he had meant it in a .. too harm me at all or in a bad way, you know, that's past already.
SCOTT CROCKETT: And was the bird hunting successful?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Hunting was okay, actually. It was not great, but I had a lot of time to think.
Q. It's going to be a very difficult week for Darren Clarke obviously, how will it help The European Team running around and supporting him?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: To be honest I think it's going to be a great week for Darren in the sense .. whatever the outcome, in the sense that his mind is going to be focused and occupied in golf, you know, in this event, and I think that is going to be a positive thing for him.
And him being part of the team, I think, you know, it's great. I'm very happy to have him on the team. Obviously I'm pretty sure that he sees things from a different perspective after what he has gone through. But we're going to try, you know, as the team, we're going to try to make this week as good as possible for him and as I said, he's a great asset to the team. And whatever the outcome, I think it's going to be fantastic for him.
Q. You made your name as a foursomes and four.balls player, seven years on, do you have a preference?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Not really. I don't have a preference. Obviously four.ball is more relaxed in the sense that, you know, you can rely on your partner. Foursomes, I've always said that foursomes is a tougher format. It's very, it's quite hard to get the rhythm going. It might, you know, play four or five holes and maybe never hit a putt, and all of the sudden you have to hit one that's crucial. In that sense, I think it's tougher, the foursomes, without a question.
Q. Just going briefly back to what we were saying about Colin, The European Team has always had a great reputation in team spirit for getting along so well. Have things like that crept us in the past that we are not aware of or, are there tensions in the team room or have you generally gotten along pretty well?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Every Ryder Cup that I've been involved in, it's been excellent. There has not been any frictions whatsoever, and you know, has not been one yet this week.
So even though you try hard ... (laughter).
Q. You were saying in '87 Seve took you under his wing a little bit. Is there any rookies you'll be doing that for this year?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, the two rookies, you know, they are much bigger and much stronger than I am.
No, the thing is that all these players have played at a very high level in both parts of the Atlantic, here, in the United States. They have done well. They have proved that they can handle pressure okay.
The only thing we might help them on is to let them know what they might be facing in the sense of atmosphere, match.play situations, things like that. But I think apart from that, they are well experienced.
Q. And has Woosie been talking to you about the possibility of putting you and Sergio together?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No, we haven't talked about it at all. We will see in the next two or three days as we practise who are the players that are playing better.
Q. Do you think you have the synergy that might work well?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: (Raising shoulders) (laughter).
Q. It's been a while since you played competitively at The K Club here, what are your thoughts on the course?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: The course is fantastic. I mean, we played here ten days ago roughly. The weather was just a little bit better than today. It was excellent, actually. And the golf course is a great golf course. It's a golf course that is playing long, there is quite a bit of rough in there, so accuracy off the tees is going to be crucial in the sense of being able to hit the greens, and put the pressure on your opponents. That's why I said in the interview that I'm going to work the next three days time to figure that out.
There is a lot of water in play. The finishing holes are tough, very tough actually. And I think, you know, for match play, it's a great venue.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Well, thank you very much, good luck for the week.
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- 1969: Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus on the final hole of the final day.