Olazabal's 2012 Ryder Cup hopes threatened by illness

"Golly, no Olly" was the overwhelming reaction as the top table filled at yesterday's Ryder Cup press conference. While the appointment of Colin Montgomerie had been well-trailed, then it had also been expected that the committee would name Jose Maria Olazabal as the captain of the 2012 match at the same time.

But no, Montgomerie made an admission that was to cast a sobering light on a day otherwise depicted as one of the more euphoric on the European Tour. He revealed that one of the principal reasons why the Spaniard was not announced yesterday as the man to lead out Europe in Chicago, were the fears concerning his health.

Olazabal is suffering from severe rheumatism that has limited him to just two appearances since May. The truth is that the 42-year-old is not sure if his condition will degenerate or not and whether he would be able to undertake the role in Medinah.

There were some worries on the selection panel that the dual major winner would struggle to fulfil his duties for the 2010 match and that was a factor in Montgomerie's elevation. "He is obviously the favoured candidate in 2012 provided his health does not deteriorate," said Montgomerie.

"I am sure that is why it was not a double announcement today. I don't think Jose Maria was in a position to say yes at this stage. Who says he won't be in a position to say yes in two years time. Let us pray that he will."

Montgomerie was quick to say that he had already asked Olazabal to be his right-hand man at Celtic Manor and that he had accepted. Before the decision was made public Thomas Bjorn, the players' committee chairman, talked with Olazabal for 10minutes and explained why they had opted for Montgomerie, despiteOlazabal making such an impression as Nick Faldo's assistant at September's match in Kentucky.

Bjorn also telephoned Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam, the two other candidates considered to be in contention. The chances of Lyle now emulating the rest of Europe's so-called "Big Five" in the Eighties – Seve Ballesteros, Bernard Langer, Woosnam and Faldo – in captaining the side appear to be on the low side of nil.