Ryder greats to lead Europe

Three players with quite brilliant records will spearhead Europe’s bid to inflict more Ryder Cup misery on America next year.

Three players with quite brilliant records will spearhead Europe’s bid to inflict more Ryder Cup misery on America next year.

At least that is the plan of captain Nick Faldo after he yesterday named Jose Maria Olazabal and Paul McGinley as his two assistants for Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky.

But Faldo accepts he might have to change things shortly before the match in 16 months’ time because Olazabal and McGinley – two of the heroes of the K Club victory last September – want to play again.

Should one or both qualify Faldo, named two years ago as Ian Woosnam’s successor, says he will “go back into the woods and come up with two more names”.

That might not be difficult. If, for example, Colin Montgomerie, favourite for the captaincy at Celtic Manor in 2010, fails to earn a ninth cap he could be brought into the backroom team.

In Olazabal and McGinley, record cap-holder and record points-holder Faldo has a wealth of experience and expertise at beating the United States.

With Seve Ballesteros Olazabal formed the most lethal pairing in the history of the match. They lost just two of 15 games together and Olazabal, himself the likeliest man in charge in 2012, linked up with Sergio Garcia to devastating effect in Ireland last year.

McGinley, at 40 one year younger than the double Masters champion, has won only three caps compared to Faldo’s 11 and Olazabal’s seven, but all three were on triumphant sides and he famously sank the winning putt at The Belfry in 2002.

“They are two guys I have good chemistry with,” said Faldo. “One is based mainly in the United States (Olazabal) and one based mainly in Europe, and to have two players of their character and playing stature is very important to me.

“Their number one goal is to make the team and I am in full support of that. If they do then fine.

“Olly has great passion and incredible determination. I don’t know where he got that from, but it might have something to do with his partnership with Seve!

“I’ve already had a couple of chats with Paul and he came up with a very good point that the players look to people in this era rather than captains of the past. I’ve not been part of a Ryder Cup for the last 10 years.”

Olazabal was invited to be an assistant captain by both Sam Torrance in 2002 and Bernhard Langer in 2004, but turned them down because he wanted to concentrate on trying to play his way into the side. In the event he failed both times.

At 26th in the world he is currently the seventh highest-ranked European, but on why he has accepted this time Olazabal replied: “I’m getting older.

“Obviously it’s a great feeling, but he knows it is my intention to be part of the team as a player.

“It’s nice to be named by Nick to help him in any area I can and we will just see how things develop.”

McGinley’s chances of being given the captaincy in the future have clearly improved as a result of his appointment and he commented: “What a great honour to be picked by Nick.

“We all know his great record and how much he thinks about the game. But the main thing is that I want to play in this one.

“I’m thrilled that I’ll be involved one way or another. I did think about it and asked some people’s advice as my fear was losing the focus on my own game.

“Once I got that right in my head I was more than delighted to go ahead.”

Woosnam was last year’s captain and he had Sandy Lyle, Peter Baker and Des Smyth as his assistants. But Faldo and his opposite number Paul Azinger appear to have agreed on just two each.

On Azinger Faldo stated: “I know he shares the passion, which is great. I believe he has already had a meeting with past captains, he has a good association with the players and he will definitely command respect and inspire them.

“But I have a simple goal – I want my team to win and I will concentrate on that.

“Momentum is a very important part of the Ryder Cup and we have been able to ride that wave.

“Yes, we will go as favourites and that’s one of the things the team will have to deal with, but we start again from scratch. I want the team basically to come down to earth (after two huge nine-point wins) – it’s a very important Ryder Cup for them, the Tour and the record books.”

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