Jose Maria Olazabal must have someone watching over him. Peter Hanson’s KLM Open victory is just the latest pre-Ryder Cup present.
If the European captain believes momentum can help win Ryder Cups, then he’s got it in spades. Hanson’s win is one of five victories European Ryder Cup players have notched up since the PGA Championship.
Rory McIlroy won that PGA Championship, his second major following last year’s U.S. Open. Sergio Garcia sealed his place on the European team by winning the Wyndham Championship. Paul Lawrie got in on the act with victory in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. McIlroy added the Deutsche Bank Championship, and now Hanson.
The Swede holed a 35-foot eagle putt on the final hole for a closing 3-under 67. It took him to 14 under for the tournament, good enough for a two shot victory over from Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal and Richie Ramsay of Scotland.
The win was all the more poignant for Hanson considering the health of his son. One-year-old son Tim was hospitalized in Orlando with a respiratory virus on Saturday evening. The Swede considered pulling out of the tournament to join his family, but stayed in The Netherlands after assurances from wife Sanna.
Hanson has now won five times on the European Tour. This victory is his first since winning twice in 2010, when he made his Ryder Cup debut. The 34-year-old won one point from the three matches he played at Celtic Manor.
“It’s massive,” Hanson said when asked about the confidence the win gives him heading to his second Ryder Cup. “It’s so nice to see so many guys playing well coming into the Ryder Cup. It feels like everyone on our side is playing well.”
Olazabal gave mixed messages on the significance of Europeans winning tournaments when he named his European wild cards at Gleneagles two three weeks ago. However, eventually he conceded that winning was important for his team’s confidence
“It is important in the way that that builds confidence, and that is crucial,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s how they play during that week. We are going to be facing a big opponent. Anything can happen. You know, they will have to play great. But obviously it’s important to see Rory winning, Paul winning, Sergio winning. It’s always nice, obviously.
“It helps to boost the confidence of the players, and what you need within the team is confident players. I think that helps, yeah.”
With two weeks left until the match takes place at Medinah Country Club, there is still time for other members of Olazabal’s team to join the winner’s circle. For example, Francesco Molinari will enter this week’s Italian Open as one of the clear favorites. Martin Kaymer also takes his place in the field.
Don’t be surprised if either Molinari or Kaymer joins Hanson and Co. in the victory parade, a parade that could help Europe to yet another Ryder Cup victory.
The momentum seems to be on Olazabal’s side. Considering how close this Ryder Cup is going to be, that intangible could make all the difference at Medinah.