Ryder Cup 2012: Lionheart Ian Poulter ‘was just like Seve’ – Jose Maria Olazabal
EUROPE’S Ryder Cup-winning captain Jose Maria Olazabal – who landed at Heathrow
yesterday to a hero’s reception – compared the performance of Ian Poulter at Medinah to that of his late countryman Seve Ballesteros.
Olazabal led Europe to a remarkable comeback from 10-4 down to beat the United States on a thrilling final day. Poulter was one of Olazabal’s two wildcard choices for the competition and repaid the faith shown in him by remaining unbeaten over the course of the weekend.
Spaniard Ballesteros, who died in May 2011 from a brain tumour, was part of eight successful Ryder Cup teams and close friend Olazabal believes Englishman Poulter has a similar determination.
Olazabal, who ruled himself out of captaining the team in future Ryder Cups, said: “For whatever reason, this event for him means so much. He thrives in it and I think it brings the best of him on the golf course. That is why he managed to
do what he did on the Saturday afternoon, it was just amazing. In a way, he reminds me a bit of Seve, that intensity, that focus, that will to win the point is very close to Seve.”
Poulter birdied the last five holes of his fourball match with Rory McIlroy against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson to earn a vital point. Olazabal selected the 36-year-old’s putt on the 18th which clinched that match by one point as his favourite of the event. “The putt Poulter made at the 18th on Saturday was huge. If that didn’t happen we wouldn’t have had a chance going into the final day,” he said. “I was pretty much 99 per cent confident that the ball would go in the hole.”
The European team wore navy and white in a tribute to the late Ballesteros, who captained the team to Ryder Cup glory in 1997, and Olazabal feels Poulter could achieve the same feat in the future. “Well, if he is the captain that is obviously a great thing,” he said. “He will bring the passion but he will need another 12 players like him and that is hard to find. Obviously, he will be a wonderful captain for sure.”
Poulter may be a future Ryder Cup captain, but Olazabal, 46, will not be taking control when the tournament returns in two years at Gleneagles or beyond.
When asked if he would like to captain Europe again, he said: “Yes, in a way, but I can assure you that is going to be a no.
Period. I think nowadays, first of all, it is a lot of work and it takes a lot of you during the stretch of time that you are named captain to the playing of the Ryder Cup.
“On top of that, there are a lot of players who should have the opportunity to be in my spot and the Ryder Cup is played only once every two years.”
Although he does not anticipate leading Europe into the next tournament, Olazabal did confirm he would offer any support to the next captain, if it was requested.
He said: “I talked to Seve before he passed away and of course had a few words with Bernhard [Langer] as well. At the end of the day, you know what is in hand. You have to reach the players and try to get the best out of them in the competition. That is all you can do, make life as easy as possible for them during the process. It is up to whoever the captain is at that time. Personally, I believe the captain has to decide what he wants. If he wants to reach out to me and ask for advice, fine, but I’m not going to try and force myself to be part of it, I will just be on the side. It is what I’ve said before, it is a one-time chance and I have had my chance.”
Following a breathless end to the competition, Olazabal was also keen to stress where the potential problems could arise for the next captain. “It takes a lot of time out of you, you have to be in so many places and you have to do so many things and make so many decisions. Just be prepared for that,” he said.
“My main advice would be not listening to what is said on TV during the match or what is written in the newspapers. Everyone has something to say, you have to respect that, but, at the end of the day, it goes down to what the outcome of the match is. That is unfair in a way because, if you lose, you look like you have done a poor job but, if you win, it doesn’t matter what you have done in the week – you are the best man in the world.”
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