Captains converge at Medinah
Jose Maria Olazabal and Davis Love III, The 2012 Ryder Cup Captains, gathered in the media centre at Medinah Country Club to give their opening thoughts on the week that lies ahead in Illinois.
Just two hours after touching down at Chicago’s Rockford Airport, José María Olazábal took to the stage at Medinah Country Club with opposing Captain Davis Love III to both give their initial assessments as The Ryder Cup week got underway.
Olazábal had travelled from London’s Heathrow Airport on Monday morning along with three players in Nicolas Colsaerts, Paul Lawrie and Francesco Molinari, plus Vice Captains Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez, while the entire team and backroom staff congregated at the team hotel the evening before the first official practice day at Medinah on Tuesday.
As Love warmly welcomed his old friend – and this week fiercest rival – Olazábal to the north-western suburbs of Chicago, both men were in agreement that it was great the all-important week was finally here.
“This is a huge week for our game and for all of us,” said Olazábal. “I hope we will have a great time this week here. Davis, it's been a long wait, but the time has come!”
Love agreed wholeheartedly: “We are excited to be here. I welcome José Maria and his team on behalf of the US Team. We are delighted he brought this beautiful little cup, as Ben Crenshaw always said, and it's great that we are actually going to get down to playing some golf.
“It's been a long two years for the both of us, but now we are excited to play golf and get this great match started.”
Two years have passed since Colin Montgomerie led Europe to a dramatic victory at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales, and Olazábal feels that triumph can and should not have any bearing on the way his team approaches the 39th staging of the biennial competition.
“To be honest, this is a new Ryder Cup. We are playing here against a very strong team, we are playing away. The crowds are going to be rooting for the home team really strong, so in that regard, we have to be prepared for that.
“I think I've said it all along, I think both teams are very even and it's going to be a close match. From that point of view, I don't see any favourites, and it will have to be decided, obviously, on the golf course.”
Love’s side have had a timely boost ahead of proceedings this week in Illinois in the form of Brandt Snedeker – this week making his debut in The Ryder Cup – who claimed the US PGA Tour’s top prize in the lucrative FedExCup Play-Off Series last weekend, a win that scooped the American over $11million.
“Brandt's feeling smarter,” Love laughed. “I joked earlier that he didn't come up here last night because he had to go to the bank. He's obviously very excited, and he's been playing well all year. And I think everybody we picked has shown great form recently, a few great rounds, and are playing well.”
For Olazábal, and for Europe, this year’s contest takes on an extra significance as the first to take place since the death of European Ryder Cup legend Severiano Ballesteros, and the late Spaniard's protégée was quick to reference his friend's influence.
“I think the most important thing is the passion that everyone brings into the team and into the game itself,” he reflected. “I think that's the most important part. You have to make your players believe that you're playing for something really special, that it's a unique moment.
“It only happens once every two years. It’s just letting the players realise that there are moments that are unique to this event; that it won't happen anywhere else in any other tournament. You try to pass that on to the players. That's what I learned from Seve, from Bernhard (Langer), and all of the past captains. You have to be really prepared to give your best and give your all for this week.”