EUROPEAN RYDER CUP captain, Jose Maria Olazabal produced his lowest score in three years on the final day of the Italian Open yesterday and then reassured the golf world there would be no repeat of the opening ceremony remarks delivered by Nick Faldo four years ago at Valhalla.
Olazabal bogeyed the first but then birdied three in a row on route to a seven under par 65 for a seven under par tally.
Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano made amends in missing out on Ryder Cup selection, winning a second Italian Open in six years by two strokes with a last round 64 for a 24-under par tally. South African Garth Mulroy (67) was second on 22-under par and the Ryder Cup duo of Nicolas Colsaerts and Martin Kaymer, both had 67s, sharing fifth place on 18-under par.
Olazabal will spend this coming week resting at his home in Spain before heading to London over the weekend and then joining just three team members — London-based Francesco Molinari, Belgium’s Colsaerts and Scotland’s Paul Lawrie — aboard next Monday’s special charter from London Heathrow to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
But while the Spaniard, who is heading to his 10th Ryder Cup, is delighted with the form of his 12 players his main fear seems to be the formality of the occasion.
“That’s why I am taking this week off. I am going to stay at home, just relax, chill out, make a few calls, check everything’s in place,” he said. ”I’ll also be talking to the PGA people, to my team, to see everything is spot on.
“Thomas Bjorn and Jamie Spence are travelling to Chicago on Thursday, so they’ll be on site from Friday and they will give me some information on the set-up of the course. There are some other things I need to do plus I’ll be keeping an eye on how the boys are playing in Atlanta. You know, those little things.”
And with just over a week before competition commences, Olazabal is pondering the speeches he will be called upon to make especially at the opening ceremony.
Four years ago, the last time the Ryder Cup was held in the United States, Faldo hit a false note at the opening ceremony, introducing triple Major winner Pádraig Harrington as “He’s hit more golf balls than potatoes grown in Ireland”, and naming Soren Hansen as Soren Stenson’.
Olazabal will certainly produce a more sombre note and is expected to make a reference to his Ryder Cup partner Seve Ballesteros, who died from a brain tumour in May, 2011.
“The speeches are the part I feel most uncomfortable with,” he said. ”Obviously, they’re not our cup of tea in the sense we are not used to doing that week-out, week-in, and talking in front of millions of people.
“I won’t tell you if I’ve written my speech but it’s tough as you don’t want to forget anyone, you have to thank the right people. I know Sam (Torrance) got some coaching, so it’s not easy. As players we are used to hitting tee shots, chips and putts and there’s nothing really to fear but making speeches? Well, that’s different.
“I feel I’ve been okay up to now and hopefully I’ll be okay when I get to Medinah and I won’t make a mess of it.”