Jose Maria Olazabal would rather play in the next Ryder Cup than take over as captain from under-fire Nick Faldo.
Olazabal prefers to be a 'playing partner' than captain next year
LONDON // Jose Maria Olazabal would rather play in the next Ryder Cup than take over as captain from under-fire Nick Faldo. The Spaniard spelled out his intentions as the nucleus of the defeated European team flew into Heathrow late on Monday night. Faldo, originally criticised for selecting Ian Poulter ahead of the in-form Darren Clarke, was subjected to further flak over his playing order for the final day's singles in the 16½-11½ defeat at Valhalla.
But Faldo's 42-year-old vice captain Olazabal - whose hopes of playing in this year's event were wrecked by his ongoing back injury - feels he could not yet commit to leading Europe at Celtic Manor in 2010. The Spaniard said: "I told the boys that my intention is that if I get healthy I might hopefully be a playing partner in the next Ryder Cup and then we'll see after that, but time will tell." Olazabal maintains that, even if the European Golf Union asked him, he would be not be in a position to accept any time soon. "If they wanted a decision by the end of this year, I'm not going to be able to give them that," he said.
"The scenario is that my condition is improving and I'm feeling better. I'm not 100 per cent pain-free, but I'm hoping that I might be able to play one or two events at the end of the year to see how the back holds up. "I'm looking next year to be back playing golf and that's why I cannot give an answer that soon." Asked to name the possible replacements should Faldo not stay at the helm, Olazabal speculated: "There's a bunch of guys. Sandy Lyle, he's been there and being in Wales another possibility is Ian Woosnam.
"But I think it's early days. We'll have to see what the PGA decide, see what choices we have and then make a decision." Olazabal admitted that after tasting Ryder Cup success as a player it was difficult watching the side suffer defeat at the hands of the USA in his role as vice captain. "I had mixed emotions, I have to be honest about it. I wanted to play, I saw all the boys there playing the matches and I was biting my nails.
"I really wanted to go there and grab a club and hit a couple of shots but, on the other hand, it has been a great experience. I've learned couple of things that may come in handy in the future. "Even though we lost I do have a lot of good memories of it." Lee Westwood also defended the under-fire Faldo, insisting he was not to blame for Europe's defeat by the US, as the nucleus of the vanquished team arrived back.
Faldo declined to speak , but Westwood admitted that responsibility for the defeat at Valhalla rested with the players. "We would have liked to have come back with the trophy, obviously, but the Americans played great," he said. "We got well and truly beaten by the better side." Faldo came under fire for his controversial running order for the final day's singles, but Westwood had no complaints at all about his leadership.
"I don't think he could have done anything else," he said. "We hold the golf clubs, we hit the ball, the buck stops with us really. "Nick sent us out in good order and if we'd have played well it would have worked." Westwood also refused to blame the defeat on the American crowd who gave some of the European players a hard time. He admitted it was not his most pleasant experience on a golf course, but said: "You should be able to handle things like that. I'll learn next time and know how to handle it in a different way."
* PA Sport