An Interview With: CAPTAIN JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL
KELLY ELBIN: European Ryder Cup Captain, José Maria Olazábal, joining us. The announcements are in for tomorrow's Friday morning foursomes.
Captain, we heard some comments from Captain Love. Comments from you on your four teams that you've put out and how you see the matches potentially going tomorrow, please.
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, I wanted to have my strongest foursome pairings tomorrow for the first session. And that's the logic behind these pairings here.
I know that the matches are going to be tough. The U.S. Team is playing great. We do have very strong pairings on the U.S. side, and the European players are going to have to play really, really well in order to win points. That's the way this Ryder Cup is going to be.
Q. What message did you want to send out by sending out Rory McIlroy in the first group?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, we are not hiding anything. We are not second guessing here. We are just going out and try to win points, period, that's it. That's the only way I see we might have a chance of winning this event. We have to go for it. I know we are playing away. The crowds are going to be on their side. They set up the course to their liking.
So, you know, at the end of the day, you have to make a bunch of birdies out there to win points. So just send the best players out there and see if they can perform well, and manage to win those points.
KELLY ELBIN: Captain, has the decision been made on who will hit the first shot of The Ryder Cup, whether Rory or Graeme?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: That is up to them to decide.
Q. In your remarks just a bit earlier, you made a point to call out the crowd and ask for their respect this weekend. I'm curious why you felt compelled to do that, and if that was in some way a response to what happened in 1999.
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, we know Boston; we know New Jersey, how loud the crowds can be there when we play tournaments over there. We know Chicago is going to be loud.
Chicago is a great sporting city. They love the game of golf, and I'm pretty sure they are very strong in their support for the U.S. Team, without a doubt. But I felt that I needed to just make that point clear. Actually, Davis did it, also, in a similar way; that saying that we are not here this is not a war; this is a sport.
You know, I think we are both of us, we think the same way. We have been here more than 25 years. We have known each other, both teams know each other very well. They play week out, week in, and it's going to be a lot of respect between the two teams. Even though we are going to try to beat each other, obviously, but the spirit of The Ryder Cup is what it is. We are here just to compete for the Samuel Ryder Cup in a friendly way. I mean, there is no need for any harsh words or bad comments at the wrong time.
You know, that's why I felt that I needed to make that point, anyways.
Q. Of your eight, Francesco Molinari is obviously the biggest surprise; what's he shown in the last few days to warrant inclusion?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Do you think that was a surprise?
Q. Of the eight, I think we probably predicted the other
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Really? You don't think Francesco is a steady player?
Q. He's an excellent player.
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: All right then, no surprise to me. (Laughter.)
Well, it might surprise you, but when you look at the way or Francesco's game, he's a steady player. He very rarely misses a shot. He's straight off the tee. He hits good iron shots. And that's pretty much what you look for when you are playing foursomes. So you have to have the guys that are consistent. And I felt that Francesco is one of those guys.
Q. Gamesmanship has always been sort of a subtle part of these competitions. You've played so many years with Seve, did he consciously teach you anything about gamesmanship, and if so, have you passed it along, not necessarily to this team, but to any players?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Have you ever seen me showing any kind of gamesmanship (sic) on the golf course? All right. So he didn't teach me well, did he.
No, that was not the spirit of The Ryder Cup. That was not his idea at all. It's true that sometimes he had certain tics, but he never did it on purpose. If anyone thinks that way, well, sorry. But I don't think I've shown any gamesmanship in my career.
Q. Hole No. 15 has had some interest in the press room as far as strategy. Does the team decide together whether or not to go for 15, for example? Or are you letting the players decide in the moment?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I said it quite a few times before during these two years. You know, the players know their game better than I do. They know how they are feeling at that particular moment. If the guy feels like he has to go for the green, so be it. It's their decision. You know, if they ask me, I will give my opinion. But I'm not going to impose myself.
Q. Can you talk about how important is the fact that the balance of the USA Team, between victories and losses is negative of all the players and on The European Team, there are eight guys that have positive balances between victories and losses?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, it goes down to the fact that the last few Ryder Cups, we managed to win them. The record is in our favor because of that.
If you don't win Ryder Cups, obviously it's because you don't have enough points on your side. So I don't make much of it to be honest. This is a different team, and the U.S., they are playing great. I have seen them play lately; they are playing great. They have great players, consistent players. And I don't see that being a problem in their camp at all.
Q. It's been a long buildup to get to this moment finally. Can you give us a sense of the mood among your players? Is it excitement? Is it nervousness? What is it at the moment?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, excitement, obviously. That's what The Ryder Cup brings to the players. They are eager to start the matches. All of them want to play. Unfortunately there is eight guys that will play in the morning and eight guys that will play in the afternoon. But everyone wants to be a part of it, wants to be hitting the shots on the golf course. You know, that's the spirit; that's the mood in the camp, yeah.
Q. Are you going to be as visible as Seve was in Valderrama on the buggy, cheering on the team? Or what's your strategy going to be? Are you going to follow on holes
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, I have to be careful how I drive the buggy. I don't want to get fined like I did when I was going from Augusta to Hilton Head. (Laughter.)
I'm not going to be ... well, Seve was very close to the players. I'm going to be close to them, but just so they know I'm there if they want me for something. As I said before, I'm not going to impose myself on telling the player what shot he has to hit.
As I said, they know their game. I'm not going to tell Rory, you know, to hit a certain shot on to the green. First of all, to start with, he will hit a 6 iron from 200 yards and I will be hitting a 3 iron, so he's got a different picture of the ball flying towards the green. I'm going to be there. I'm going to be close to the guys. But I'm not imposing myself.
Q. On a positive note regarding Seve, I'm sure he's looking down on all of us, but what do you think his advice would be, his, I guess, pearls of wisdom he would tell you regarding this team, this specific team this year?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Just play hard, play with passion and win the damn points.
KELLY ELBIN: Pretty succinct.
Q. Do you have any idea at this moment who is going to be playing in the afternoon fourballs?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No, not at all. Obviously we will have to wait and see how the morning matches develop, and it's early days, obviously.
Q. Just wondering if you've found it at all difficult telling four players they would sit it out in the opening foursomes matches.
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: It's always difficult, especially when you have 12 strong players. It's always difficult, yes. I totally agree with that. It was a hard decision. It was not easy. But unfortunately, well not unfortunately. Actually, fortunately, I'm in that position. You know, I do have 12 strong players on the side, and it's fantastic to have that kind of problem.
KELLY ELBIN: Captain Olazábal, thank you, and let's play this golf.
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