Olazabal on the final straight


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The Independent Online

Jose Maria Olazabal makes a final sweep of the European scene today before boarding a plane for the United States.

Europe's Ryder Cup captain signs off at the Italian Open in Turin having watched three of his team power alongside him into the weekend. Martin Kaymer (right) shot 66 and 67 in rounds two and three, re-inforcing the view that his form is returning. Nicolas Colsaerts followed a solid 67 with a 65 and Francesco Molinari opened with two rounds in the 60s.

The work is done, of course. For Olazabal it is all about fine tuning. He has already convened with his players once. He will be at West Lake for the Fed-Ex finale next week, where Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood have a shot at the $10 million jackpot. And then it is off to Medinah in Chicago for the 39th staging of the Ryder Cup.

The event has acquired a status that he could not have envisaged when he set out alongside Seve Ballesteros 25 years ago, when the European team was in its infancy. That European concept has matured into a global brand, and the role of captain has grown with it. Olazabal recognises the importance of the role and is relishing the opportunity.

"When I look at my career there have been successes, I have won big tournaments, but this is the only shot at it as captain," Olazabal said. "If we can win away, bring the Ryder Cup back to Europe it would be the icing on the cake for my career."

Olazabal made his debut at Muirfield Village in 1987 playing in every session with Ballesteros. Their success, returning three points from four, underpinned Europe's historic first victory on American soil. Olazabal was a vice-captain four years ago at Valhalla, offering loyal support to losing captain Sir Nick Faldo.

He was in the team room again at Celtic Manor under Colin Montgomerie and gave a rousing speech invoking the spirit of the ailing Ballesteros. Seve left us in May last year, but his presence will be felt again in the words and emotions of Olazabal. "Seve was a great person," he said. "I have many special memories of our time together. When I speak it is from those shared experiences.

"I don't need to tell the players how to play. But I will be there passing on information, making sure everything is working well. It is going to be a fantastic week. I will do my best to make sure it is successful."