x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Golf not the problem but Jose Maria Olazabal does fear talking the talk

It is not the golf that has Jose Maria Olazabal worried. It is all the ceremony and speeches awaiting him at the start of the Ryder Cup competition.

Jose Maria Olazabal's recent show of form at the BMW Italian Open shows his golf game is well in hand. However, the Spaniard is a little worried about all the speeches he may have to make at the Ryder Cup.
Jose Maria Olazabal's recent show of form at the BMW Italian Open shows his golf game is well in hand. However, the Spaniard is a little worried about all the speeches he may have to make at the Ryder Cup.

TURIN // Jose Maria Olazabal, the European Ryder Cup captain, has reassured the golf world there will be no repeat of the opening ceremony gaffes delivered by Nick Faldo four years ago at Valhalla.

And on the playing side the Spaniard has been leading by example as his team prepare for the showdown at Medinah, Illinois, from September 28 to 30.

Olazabalproduced his lowest score in three years on the final day of the BMW Italian Open on Sunday when he hit a seven-under par 65 for a seven-under par tally.

He will spend this week resting at his home in Spain before heading to London over the weekend and joining just three team members - the London-based Italian Francesco Molinari, Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts and Scotland's Paul Lawrie - aboard next Monday's special charter flight from London to Chicago.

While Olazabal, who is heading to his 10th Ryder Cup, is delighted with the form of his 12 players, his main fear seems to be the formality of the occasion.

"That's why I am taking this week off. I am going to stay at home, just relax, chill out, make a few calls, check everything's in place," he said. "I'll also be talking to the PGA people, to my team, to see everything is spot on. Thomas Bjorn and Jamie Spence are travelling to Chicago on Thursday, so they'll be on site from Friday and they will give me some information on the set-up of the course.

"There are some other things I need to do plus I'll be keeping an eye on how the boys are playing in Atlanta.

"You know, those little things."

And with just over a week before competition commences, Olazabal is pondering the speeches he will be called upon to make, especially at the opening ceremony.

Four years ago, the last time the Ryder Cup was held in the United States, Faldo hit a false note at the opening ceremony, introducing the triple major winner Padraig Harrington as, "he's hit more golf balls than potatoes grown in Ireland", and naming Soren Hansen as Soren Stenson.

Olazabal will certainly produce a more sombre note and is expected to make a reference to his Ryder Cup partner Seve Ballesteros, who died from a brain tumour in May 2011.

"The speeches are the part I feel most uncomfortable with," he said. "Obviously, they're not our cup of tea in the sense we are not used to doing that week-out, week-in, and talking in front of millions of people.

"I won't tell you if I've written my speech, but it's tough as you don't want to forget anyone, you have to thank the right people.

"I know Sam [Torrance] got some coaching, so it's not easy. As players we are used to hitting tee shots, chips and putts, and there's nothing really to fear, but making speeches? Well, that's different.

"I feel I've been OK up to now and hopefully I'll be OK when I get to Medinah, and I won't make a mess of it."

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE