Describing the role as ”torture” at times, victorious Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal ruled out the possibility – ”no, period” – of staying on for the 2014 competition at Gleneagles.
The Spaniard returned to European soil on Monday night, cradling the gleaming golden trophy and still revelling in Europe’s stirring comeback victory over the United States at Medinah, Illinois on Sunday.
Spain’s King Juan Carlos and tennis star Rafael Nadal were among the many people who sent Olazabal messages of congratulations after the 14 1/2-13 1/2 win that kept the cup in European hands.
But after seven matches as a player – during which he teamed up so effectively with the late Seve Ballesteros – and now another as a winning captain, he has come to the end of his 25-year Ryder Cup career.
”I can assure you it will be a no, period,” Olazabal said Tuesday, when asked if he would want to stay on. ”It’s a lot of work … it takes a lot out of you for a stretch of time. It is difficult. In a way it’s torture.
”On top of that, there are a lot of players who should have the opportunity to be in my spot. The Ryder Cup is only played once every two years and there are a big number of players that have the chance to be in my position. I won’t do it again.”
Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley, two of Olazabal’s four assistants in Medinah, have been installed as early favorites to take over. A decision will be made in January by the European Tour’s tournament committee, headed by Thomas Bjorn, another of Olazabal’s assistants.
”I think these two (Clarke and McGinley) deserve a chance but I think Thomas deserves a chance and also Paul Lawrie,” Olazabal said. ”Once those guys do it, we have Lee (Westwood), Padraig (Harrington).
”We have at least eight or nine guys that have the chance and there only a certain number of Ryder Cups. It would be hard to name just one or two.”
And what about Ian Poulter? The Englishman won a match-high four points in Medinah, including one in Saturday’s fourballs that Olazabal considers the most important of them all. The win brought Europe within 10-6 and gave the team crucial momentum heading into Sunday.
Poulter now has the best winning record of any European who has played more than two Ryder Cups and his passion for the event has seen him described as the ”modern-day Seve.”
”He will be a wonderful captain for sure,” Olazabal said. ”But he will need another 12 players just like him.”
The memory of Ballesteros inspired the team in Sunday’s dramatic singles, which Europe won 8 1/2-3 1/2 to engineer Europe’s biggest turnaround in the event’s history, matching that of the U.S at Brookline in 1999.
Honoring the memory of Ballesteros was, to many, the chief reason behind Europe’s recovery. But Olazabal’s influence was also crucial.
”Jose Maria has lived for this game all his life and more than anything this competition,” said Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium, who flanked Olazabal at a news conference at Heathrow airport, with the Ryder Cup placed in front of them. ”He made it clear to us this thing here is very, very special.
”Everyone looked at each other and understood the importance of this cup in this man’s life. At some stage during the week, you looked at this guy’s eyes, and they were just how they were when he played. Every time he went out with Seve into the storm, everybody saw these two men were very special and how big a deal this cup was.”
Colsaerts was one of four players in their 20s in Europe’s team, along with Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari. With the likes of Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell still having plenty of Ryder Cups left in them and young players such as Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark and Matteo Manassero of Italy considered stars of the future, Europe looks well stocked for talent.
”You don’t know what the future will bring – who would have thought we would have players like Rory or Nicolas seven years ago?” Olazabal said. ”That’s the beauty of the European Tour. It always produces great players.”
Olazabal, who has been surviving on ”two or three hours” of sleep a night, will now return to Spain and start answering some of the 100-plus messages left on his phone following his flight back from the U.S.
”The phone has been really hot – out of all the messages, there is one that stunned me a bit,” he said. ”The King of Spain just rang me a few minutes ago. He was pretty much like me, over the moon. That was a nice one.
”But there have been sports guys like Nadal and others from Spain. Everyone from all over the world.”