Olazabal likely to become Euro Ryder captain

Jose Maria Olazabal (center) is applauded during the trophy presentation at the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Jose Maria Olazabal (center) is applauded during the trophy presentation at the 2010 Ryder Cup.

LONDON – Jose Maria Olazabal is widely expected to be appointed Europe’s captain for the 2012 Ryder Cup team Tuesday.

The 44-year-old Spaniard, who played in seven Ryder Cups and was vice-captain for the past two matches, is the favorite to succeed Colin Montgomerie as captain when the European Tour’s tournament committee meets in Abu Dhabi.

“If I’m chosen, I’d have no hesitation taking the captaincy,” Olazabal told The Times of London newspaper Monday.

Europe reclaimed the Ryder Cup from the United States by winning 14½-13½ at Celtic Manor, Wales, in October. The two teams will meet in September 2012 in Medinah, near Chicago.

“Playing in Chicago will make things quite difficult,” Olazabal said. “The crowds there are very loud. We will be playing on foreign soil and they (the U.S.) will prepare the course to their benefit.”

Davis Love III is set to be picked as the next captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, two officials involved in the selection process said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement was not due until Thursday.

Love was a vice captain in October.

Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion, is the unanimous choice among Europe’s leading players despite concerns about his health. Olazabal has struggled with chronic back problems in recent years, limiting his appearances on tour to just three events in 2010.

An essential requirement of the European Tour is that a captain plays a full tournament schedule in the year of a Ryder Cup to stay close to potential members of the team.

Along with being one of Europe’s most popular players over the years, Olazabal has also been one of the team’s most successful.

Olazabal has an impressive Ryder Cup record, winning 18 and halving five of his 31 matches. He has been on the winning side three times, in 1987, 1997 and 2006. He was also a member of the team that retained the trophy in 1989 with a 14-14 draw against the U.S. at The Belfry.

Olazabal was Nick Faldo’s vice-captain when the Americans won in Valhalla in 2008. He was a late addition to Montgomerie’s staff last year.

Montgomerie, who announced after the win at Celtic Manor that he would be stepping down as captain, said at the time that Olazabal would be “everybody’s choice” to take over.

George O’Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, said in November that “just about every player on the tour ... would love to see him as the captain.”

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