Colin Montgomerie and Darren Clarke both believe Jose Maria Olazabal will still become Ryder Cup captain – probably for the 2012 match in Chicago.
Montgomerie originally wanted Olazabal as one of his assistants for Celtic Manor in October, but turned to Clarke instead after deciding the 44-year-old Spaniard’s poor health counted against him.
Olazabal’s only appearance on the European Tour this year was three weeks ago in France as his battle with rheumatic pains goes on.
“I think Jose Maria will be a captain of the Ryder Cup team in the future,” said Montgomerie, who was given the job last year after Olazabal hesitated on making himself available then.
“Unfortunately Jose Maria is not keeping good health right now. He hasn’t played on the European Tour very much this last two years of qualifying.”
Although he could yet make the team – and will play if he does – Clarke agreed last week to be part of the backroom staff along with former team-mates Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn, both of whom have captaincy experience from last September’s Vivendi Trophy.
Montgomerie added: “I have spoken to Jose Maria and explained the situation and all he did was wish us the best of luck – you know the passion that he shows for the Ryder Cup – in our quest to regain this fabulous trophy.
“Because of his lack of participation, it was just a sign that he wasn’t at that stage to be part of a vice-captaincy role.
“I made that decision on his behalf, I think. It was a phone call that I didn’t want really to make. I think it’s very important nowadays to be part of the Tour, to be playing, to be associated with the players in the locker room, around the course and around the whole Tour.
“All I can say to that is we wish him well. I know he’s not well enough right now to be able to physically play four rounds of golf in a tournament. We do hope and pray that he comes back to his winning ways.”
Clarke’s name will doubtless now be added to those of McGinley and Bjorn as possible future captains, but the Ulsterman speaks up for Olazabal too.
“Olly is a legend of European golf – I think that’s how you would categorise him. With his input and everything he has done in past Ryder Cups I’m sure the captaincy role will come round to him at some stage and we would all be delighted to see him as captain.
“He would also make a fantastic captain and he’s another one who would have a huge amount of respect from everyone.”
Olazabal served as Nick Faldo’s assistant in the Valhalla defeat two years ago, but was always luke-warm about the idea of repeating the role and that may well have played a part in Montgomerie’s decision as well.