For a man about to face to most high profile week of his golfing career, Jose Maria Olazabal sounded remarkably relaxed as he packed his bags yesterday after his final round in the BMW Italian Open.
Why not ? He was about to make the short trip home from Turin to Fuenterrabia in Northern Spain having just shot a seven-under par 65, his lowest score in a tournament for three years.
There was also the huge personal satisfaction to be taken from that eight-birdie round given that a decade ago he was wracked with pain from an arthritic foot condition which almost forced the two-time Masters Champion to quit the game.
However, as he spends his last week before facing the glaring spotlights as Europe's Ryder Cup captain quietly fishing Olazabal believes he has one huge obstacle to overcome.
He is more than happy with the form of his 12-man team having seen Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia recently win on the US Tour and having watched close up as Paul Lawrie took the Johnnie Walker and Peter Hanson the KLM Open titles in Europe.
Furthermore having assembled a Medinah back-room staff of possible future Ryder Cup captains in Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez, he knows he will have some powerful characters to call upon should the defence of the victory two years ago at Celtic Manor start to go awry.
However, he also know that neither the likes of McIlroy nor a great golfing brain like McGinley will be able to help him when he comes down to one of his key captaincy roles – delivering speeches at the open and closing ceremonies in Chicago. In Italy yesterday, in his last chat with the media before heading for America, the extent of that concern became abundantly clear.
"That's the part I feel more uncomfortable with," said Olazabal. "Obviously that's not our cup of tea in the sense we golfers are not used to doing that week-out, week-in, to talk in front of millions of people.
"It's tough when you don't want to forget anyone or upset anyone and you have to thank the right people. It's not easy. Obviously, we are used to hitting tee shots, chips and putts but that is so different."
Olazabal has good reason to feel uncomfortable after the series of gaffes made by one of his predecessors, Nick Faldo, when Europe lost at Valhalla 16 ½ to 11 ½ four years ago. Faldo showed that being a six-time major winner counted for nothing when he was put in front of a microphone and his mistakes are now legend on the European Tour.
He referred to his Danish member Soren Hansen as Soren Stenson, described triple major winner Padraig Harrington as a man who had hit more golf balls than potatoes grown in his native Ireland and then managed to touch on the sensitivities of two nations when he said he didn't care whether Graeme McDowell came from Northerm Ireland or the Republic of Ireland.
Yet if Olazabal is suffering from a lack of self-confidence in the speech department it was completely the opposite when he talked about the team that he will lead in America. "I am happy with the way the team has been playing in recent weeks," said Olazabal. "Let's hope they'll be able to play the same way in a couple of weeks time.
"Diversity I think is important. In that regard I thing we have all kinds of players. Long hitters, steady hitters, players with a lot of heart and guts and with the vice-captains it is similar. The backroom team is also solid. They have the experience – they've been there many times. They know what is in hand and what they have to look for. So, yeah, in that regard, they are very good.
"Two of them might be similar with Darren [Clarke] and Miguel [Jimenez] with their philosophy of life, Thomas [Bjorn] is a different person and Paul [McGinley] is another guy. So it's looking good."
Briefly yesterday Olazabal thought he might have another recent winner with him on the flight to America this Friday as Nicolas Colsaerts launched a fierce attack on the leaders in Italy.
The rookie Belgian covered his first nine holes in just 31 shots but after signing for a 67 finished six shots behind Spanish winner Gonzalo Fernandesz Castano.Reuse content