IAN Poulter, Europe’s Ryder Cup talisman, has denied being disrespectful to Seve Ballesteros by snubbing next week’s event in Paris in honour of the legendary Spaniard.
But Paul Lawrie’s criticism of the Englishman for sitting out the Seve Trophy along with Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, has been backed by Jose Maria Olazabal.
Lawrie said on the eve of the Dunhill Links Championship that he couldn’t understand why players didn’t want to support an event bearing Seve’s name, given his impact on European golf. The Scot has an ally in the man who was closer to Ballesteros than anyone in the game. “I feel pretty much the same,” admitted Olazabal, who captained all six of the aforementioned players when they were involved in Europe’s “Miracle at Medinah” in the Ryder Cup exactly a year ago.
“I know it’s a long season and a very demanding season, especially for the top players who have to travel around the world, playing in the States and different parts of the world. I know it’s difficult, but I feel it would be wonderful if these top players came to play in the event. It would be fantastic.”
FedEx Cup winner Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia are also snubbing the event next week, when Olazabal will lead Continental Europe against Sam Torrance’s Great Britain & Ireland team.
“Just imagine if Rory and G-Mac, Henrik Stenson and the others were involved. To have them there playing would be outstanding,” added Olazabal, after completing his first round at St Andrews. “I haven’t spoken to any of the guys. I’ve been in their situation, I know how tough it is, so I’m not going to tell them what to do. They are grown men, they run a very tight schedule and I understand their problems.”
Poulter, the man who inspired Europe’s record-equalling last-day fightback in Chicago 12 months ago, defended his absence from both the Dunhill Links and Seve Trophy on Twitter.
Responding to banter from Westwood, another double absentee, about this week’s event, he wrote: “Because I have a life, 4 children, wife & I like to see them occasionally.” Asked by one of his followers if he was being disrespectful to Ballesteros by missing his event, the Englishman added: “Can’t play them all, I’m afraid. I haven’t played Memorial for years. Is it disrespectful to [Jack] Nicklaus?”
Olazabal’s second stint as a Seve Trophy captain will see him come up against four Scots – five if you count the captain – after Lawrie, Stephen Gallacher, Scott Jamieson and Marc Warren all secured spots on Torrance’s team.
It’s a chance for the quartet to impress watching Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, who has already challenged Scotland’s contenders to match the Irish feat of supplying three players for the match at The K Club in 2006.
“It would be huge for the crowd,” said Olazabal of even one home player making the team at Gleneagles in a year’s time. “To have a Scot playing in the Ryder Cup in the home of golf, it doesn’t get any better than that.
“The galleries will be supportive of the European team anyway, that’s just how the Ryder Cup is. But having a Scot in there would give everyone a boost.”
For Olazabal, next week’s event will almost be a welcome break from his own playing struggles. “I don’t really think about it,” he replied to being reminded about this weekend’s anniversary of one of the greatest fightbacks in sport. “At the moment, with the way I’m playing, I have other things to think about.
“But I’m looking forward to next week because, obviously, Seve remains very close to my heart – and this is an event that Seve created. It was very close to his heart and it was always an event that he believed would become a great tournament, with Great Britain and Ireland competing against Europe.”