Olazabal's second denial embarrasses Montgomerie

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The Independent Online

Has Ollie agreed to be Monty's vice-captain or not? That was the question on the lips of everyone connected with the European Tour yesterday when, for the second time in as many months, Jose Maria Olazabal rejected Colin Montgomerie's assertion that the Spaniard had agreed to be the Scot's right-hand man at next year's Ryder Cup in Newport.

If the first denial was embarrassing for the Europe captain, then this second one was almost comical. On being named as Nick Faldo's successor in Dubai, Montgomerie announced that Olazabal had agreed to the supporting role. "No I haven't," a startled Olazabal said the next day. This time around it has taken the 43-year-old two weeks to contradict Montgomerie's claim – made on Sky Sports News – that Olazabal had finally accepted should he fail to win back his place at Celtic Manor. "I've not said that," Olazabal said. "It's news to me. I'm not sure. I've done it before and there are not many decisions to make. There's not much to do."

What made it all the more humiliating for Montgomerie was that Olazabal was standing with him in Seville, as Montgomerie was presented with a cake to mark his 500th European Tour event as a professional (the Andalucian Open which starts today). Asked how the confusion had arisen, Olazabal – who worked alongside Faldo in Louisville last September and is expected to take the reins in Chicago in 2012 – said: "Maybe my English is not good. I made it clear to Monty in Dubai that I'm going to try to get as healthy as possible and make every effort to make the team. If that's not the case, we will have to have a chat."

Montgomerie, however, remained under the impression that an agreement is in place. "We've had a conversation that he will be involved one way or another," he said. "I would love him to be playing on the team because the passion he brings is second to none, but if not he will be there in an administrative role, which will be vice-captain. I have had that conversation."

Meanwhile, over on the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods will tee it up for his third comeback tournament as he prepares for the Masters at Augusta in two weeks' time. Woods is joined in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Florida, by Padraig Harrington, Vijay Singh and a host of Britons including Justin Rose, Ross Fisher and Oliver Wilson. Woods has won this event five times and the focus will fall on him once more as he tries to overcome an eight-month absence through knee surgery. In his two events so far this month he was beaten in the second round of the World Match Play in Tucson and then finished in a tie for ninth at Doral a fortnight ago.