Jose Maria Olazabal ready for Ryder Cup challenge

 

Jose Maria Olazabal now knows his Ryder Cup team, but it does not change his view about next month's match in Chicago.

The Spaniard yesterday unveiled his 12-man line-up and was unmoved in his belief about how tough a challenge lies ahead.

"I've always said that I don't see any favourites in this Ryder Cup," said Olazabal after naming England's Ian Poulter and uncapped Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts as his two wild cards.

"Both teams are very strong. The US team is always strong and we are going to have to play really well.

"We are playing away. They are going to have the crowd advantage. They are going to set up the course to their liking."

Olazabal's counterpart Davis Love has another week to decide his four wild cards, but things only became more difficult for him at the weekend.

Until the first of the FedEx Cup play-off events Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan looked near-certainties and the other spot seemed between Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson, two more players involved in the defeat at Celtic Manor two years ago.

But then Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker finished first and second at The Barclays and another impressive performance in Boston starting on Friday could make all the difference.

What is counting against Watney and Snedeker is that Love already has three rookies in US Open champion Webb Simpson, last year's USPGA winner Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner.

Olazabal, on the other hand, has 11 players with cup experience plus this year's Volvo World Match Play champion Colsaerts, who only three years ago was ranked 1,305th in the game.

The 29-year-old - the first Belgian to appear in the match - has been preferred to Ireland's Padraig Harrington, a member of the last six sides but with only two wins in his last 13 cup games.

Compare that to Poulter's seven wins in his last eight.

"I would not have understood if I hadn't been chosen, but as much as I thought I was going to be you can't help but think that maybe he wants other things," said a relieved Colsaerts, Europe's biggest hitter last season and this.

He was a party animal and self-confessed "clown" until getting his life back in order a few years ago and showed how much he wanted it by playing eight of the last nine weeks of the points race.

Asked what Colsaerts would feel like on the first tee, Poulter replied: "I'm not sure if you can put it into words to be honest.

"I think Nicolas will feel the excitement that everybody and anybody that has played Ryder Cup has ever felt before.

"That is a lot of intense pressure, a lot of excitement and I think Nicolas is going to do an incredible job handling that and delivering with the rest of the guys on the team."

The side's biggest concern is former world number one Martin Kaymer, who has not had a top-10 finish since April.

The German was the subject of rumours that he might pull out, but after hanging onto the 10th and last automatic spot said he was working hard and promised "I will be ready".

Olazabal's mind went back to 1993.

He recalled: "I was struggling big-time. I called Seve (the late Seve Ballesteros, of course) and said 'Anybody can play better than I am at the moment and I'm thinking of not going'.

"It's a good job it was on the phone. He would have smashed my face."

They won two more games together at The Belfry, making it 11 wins, two halves and only two defeats together in their cup careers.

PA

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