An Interview With: JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL
KELLY ELBIN: European captain, José Maria Olazábal joining us. His team trails 10 6 heading into the singles matches on Sunday. Captain, comments about the play today and about your decisions on the pairings for tomorrow, please.
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, obviously today was not a great day for us, but it was a great finish I have to say. I think everyone realized what the Ryder Cup is all about when you saw those last three matches this afternoon, the level of the game was that was played, and the intensity. That's why the Ryder Cup is what it is.
Regarding the pairings, obviously we couldn't hide anything. We are trailing four points. We have to put the players that are playing well out there. We knew that they would know that. But at the end of the day, we have to take if we want to win this match, we have to take their big guns down. Well, that's what they've done, they've put all the players that have been playing really well this week up there, and hopefully tomorrow will be a different day.
I think we haven't had any momentum until the last couple of matches today, and if we make a few putts on the green, I think we're going to be a little bit closer.
Q. Do you have a feeling?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: (Laughing) I believe, yeah, that it's not over. That's what I learned from Seve, and that's what I'm going to try to pass to the players. It's not over until it's over. There is 12 matches to be played tomorrow. Of course we have a tough task ahead, but it's not over; as simple as that.
Q. I have two quick questions: Will you guys be wearing Seve's outfit for the matches tomorrow? And then what is your lasting memory of 1999? What do you personally remember most about that U.S. comeback?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Yes, we are going to wear Seve's colors, navy blue and white, and actually with Seve's silhouette on the shirts. So that's the first question.
And regarding '99, there is three moments that I remember very vividly: The start that the U.S. Team had, having reds straight away winning the first few matches; 17 green with Justin; and all the players after the matches were over in the locker room and seeing I would say more than half of the players crying all together there, me included.
Q. Another reference to '99: The difference between then and now is the Americans were playing on American soil and they had the American crowd behind them as they came from behind. How much more difficult is it for you to take this crowd out of it early, not just the players but the crowd out of it early, to create a different scenario?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, it's difficult, obviously. We've seen how supportive the crowds have been this week, and it's going to be the same tomorrow. But at the end of the day, they are not hitting the shots, and what we have to do is hit great shots, make a few putts and get the momentum on our side.
Q. Could you talk about Ian Poulter's performance this afternoon?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I think the Ryder Cup should build a statue for him, you know? You know, that's Poulter. That's why we say that he has such a special character for this event. He thrives at this event. He loves to be on the spotlight. He loves to be in that kind of situations.
And what he did today was just outstanding, period. Just amazing. The way he played those last few holes, making those clutch putts, that is the expression of Ryder Cup.
KELLY ELBIN: Does he remind you or can you compare Ian to any other Ryder Cup players in your lifetime?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, there is one that is not here with us anymore, but I'm pretty sure that when he looks down on us, he must have been proud of what he saw today.
Q. Saying what you said about Ian, in hindsight, looking back now, do you wish you hadn't sat him, and can you explain why you did sit him?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I sit him down because I want everyone to play on Friday, and in case things didn't go our way on Friday, I knew I had all those top players fresh for today's session. So it worked out okay.
Q. To follow up on that, in '99, I think there were three guys on your team that didn't even play until the last day at the expense of some other guys who weren't fresh. This year I think you've only had two guys who are going to end up playing all five. Do you feel that your guys are a lot fresher than the '99 team was going into the final day?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Yes, without a doubt, yes. In '99 there were three players that didn't play at all until the Sunday matches, and obviously the rest of us, we had to play almost most of us almost every match.
Q. You spoke about Seve earlier. This morning there was a message in the sky. Was that something that was planned by the team? Can you explain that?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, I cannot explain that because I don't know what who did it, to be honest. We are trying to figure out who organized that, but so far we haven't been successful.
KELLY ELBIN: Did anything that you saw from the United States team as far as the lineup for tomorrow surprise you?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No, not at all. I mean, they knew what we were doing, obviously. And I'm pretty sure that they don't want to lose any momentum, so they don't want, at any point, to see any blues in there, on that leaderboard. So that's why they've matched our players. But we knew that.
At the end of the day, if we want to win this Ryder Cup, we have to really take care of those great players. You know, that's it. Simple.
Q. How would you describe that look that Poulter has on his face when he makes those clutch birdie putts? And do all those facial expressions and the shimmying remind you a little bit of Seve?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: There's a story about Poulter: He played the last two Ryder Cups, and I saw him at Celtic Manor on the Monday when every player was getting ready to warm up before the matches started. I was in the locker room there waiting for the players to come out, trying to encourage the players. And Francesco came and Miguel came and some other players came, and I hugged them and wished them the very best, to keep on fighting and so on.
That expression, that look that you saw on 18, he has it at all times, even in the Ryder Cup. He had it in that locker room. I stopped him when he was coming out, and I looked straight at him in the eyes with the intention of saying a few words, and I looked at his face, at his eyes, and said, okay, you're ready, you can go. And he looked at me and said, "yes, and I guarantee you a point." That's Poulter at the Ryder Cup.
Q. You've been involved in a lot of these. Where does what Ian did today, where does that rank?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Very special. It ranks up there. Obviously the only thing is that it's Saturday afternoon. If he had done that come Sunday, that would have been, I think, almost No. 1 for sure.
Q. Can you also give us a sense of what you plan to tell your team tonight?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, there is nothing to hide, guys. Let's go out there and play your socks off.
Q. Did you discuss with Molinari the decision to put him out last? He seems to have drawn an easy one.
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, listen; first of all, if we want to have any chance of winning this match, we have to take care of those first matches. And if it comes down to the last match, Francesco is a very consistent player, very solid player. He misses very, very few shots. You know, I think that you need to rely on a guy like that for that spot. I know he's playing Tiger; we know how he played the last few holes there. You saw the shot he hit on 17, 16. But that's the level of the golf that is played at the Ryder Cup.
I mean, you have 24 of the best players in the whole world, so I mean, that's it.
KELLY ELBIN: Captain Olazábal, thank you, and good luck tomorrow.
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