Colin Montgomerie remains the favourite to be appointed as the next Europe Ryder Cup captain, despite last night's revelation that Jose Maria Olazabal would accept the Celtic Manor job if offered.
The surprise statement from the Spaniard's camp will almost certainly be viewed as having come too late when the European Tour players committee convenes in Dubai next Wednesday to vote on Nick Faldo's successor. An announcement is due to be made straight after the meeting and it is the worst-kept secret in golf that Montgomerie has already been primed to take the role.
Even Sergio Gomez, Olazabal's long-standing manager, accepts that his man is now the outsider in what some will take to be a two-horse race. "I don't believe Jose will get it because we all know there are powerful reasons why Monty cannot do it in America in 2012, given his relationship with the US crowds," he said.
Yet Gomez is adamant that, if asked, Olazabal would step up and seemingly perform a dramatic U-turn: "If he is offered the job, he will say 'Yes'. Why has Jose changed his mind? He hasn't. He has just made up his mind."
Olazabal's credentials are unquestionable. As assistant captain, the 42-year-old was one of the few bright points to emerge from the Faldo fiasco in Kentucky in September and afterwards he was urged to be captain in Newport. But he told members of the team – including Sergio Garcia, who last week said he had spoken several times on the phone to his countryman – that he still harboured hopes of making the team as a player.
Gomez, however, revealed that after pulling out of this week's Qatar Masters with a recurrence of the rheumatism that has plagued him over the last year, Olazabal realised his goal was unrealistic. "The chances of him making the team are not what he wanted or expected," he explained. "So he made up his mind that he would accept the captaincy if it was offered."
That, however, is unlikely and not just because of Montgomerie's relationship with the American galleries. It would be deeply embarrassing for both Monty and the tour if a candidate who had been persuaded to put himself forward was overlooked, just because the original first choice suddenly decided he was available. The best way out of it would be to make a joint announcement next week and to name Montgomerie for 2010 and Olazabal for 2012.