European Tour Officials Discuss 2012 Ryder Cup

Two prominent folks associated with the 2012 European Ryder Cup team held a press conference Wednesday from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, a European Tour event that starts Thursday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

On hand for the discussion were George O'Grady, the European Ryder Cup director, and 2012 captain Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain.

This year's biennial competition will be held September 25-20 at Medinah Country Club in Illinois. Even though there are eight months to go, Olazabal is already formulating plans for his squad. One of the subtle changes Olazabal is aiming for is a reduction from three captain's picks - as demanded by 2010 captain Colin Mongomerie - to two.

Olazabal came out and said as much when his appointment was announced a year ago. "The more picks you get the less value you give to the players who finish in the top 10," Olazábal said last January.

The 45-year-old - a seven-time member of the European Ryder Cup team - didn't back off from that assertion this week. "I'm not going to take any second thoughts on that," he said. "I'm going to sleep really, really well with that decision. I think, as I said it last year, for anybody to be in those top-10 spots, they will have to play really well during the season from September to September."

One of those omitted from the 2010 team, Paul Casey, then ranked No. 8 in the world, was critical of Montgomerie's selection process. Olazabal understood why the British player was miffed. "Looking at what happened the last time round it was not a comfortable situation for anyone. It would be unfair for anyone who is playing in the States and who might be on the verge of winning to announce the two captain's picks before the guys even tee off."

Regardless of the selection process, Olazabal will be blessed with a great team. As of January 25, there are nine Europeans - including Nos. 1 through 4 - in the top-20 of the World Golf Ranking.

They should, once again, have a very stout squad to defend the title won by Monty's outfit in 2010 at Celtic Manor in Wales. The Europeans have won nine of the past 13 Ryder Cups dating back to 1985, but the Americans still lead the overall series, 25-11-2.

Here's what Olazabal and O'Grady told the gathered reporters during the Q&A Wednesday.

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us. A very special day here. Let me introduce the far table to you, on the far ride right, Richard Hills, Ryder Cup Director; George O'Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour' and José Maria Olazábal who is the Ryder Cup Captain for Europe for 2012. Before we begin, George, would you like to say a few words.

GEORGE O'GRADY: Welcome everyone here to Abu Dhabi to the beginning of the fully sanctioned events on the European Tour. It's a year, I think almost to the day, when José Maria was announced as our Ryder Cup Captain, and we thought it's a pretty good chance just to get his views on how things are shaping up and any plans he has to change things for the future.

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Yes, as George said, it's just one year since I was named captain of the Ryder Cup for 2012. Time flies, especially when you get a little bit older, it seems to fly a little bit quicker. I'm just happy to be here. There is only eight months to go for the Ryder Cup. We do have the team just shaping up a little bit, even though it's still early days. There are big and huge tournaments ahead of us, and obviously things might change quite a bit from today. But at least there are some players that are doing their homework and are ahead of the rest. Well, that's it. You know, happy to be here and you know, I'm open for questions, if you have any.

Q. Any thoughts on vice captains yet?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No, still too early. I'm going to wait and take my time before I decide that. I'm going to try to delay it as much as possible.

Q. Are you still happy with your decision for two wild cards, or do you think as it gets closer, you might begin to wish that perhaps it was a bit more leeway?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No, I'm not going to take any second thoughts on that. I'm going to sleep really, really well with that decision. I think, as I said it last year, for anybody to be in those top 10 spots, they will have to play really well during the season from September to September. So I think those guys deserve to be in the team, if they are in those top-10 spots. And I think two picks is good enough in the sense that you might have a scenario like we have at the moment with Paul Casey being injured, not being able to play; who knows, maybe a couple months, or maybe more. And if you gets his game back, he might be okay to be in the team. But you know, you have to look for those scenarios where you might have players that maybe are not playing well early in the season and then they get hot, like it happened to Edoardo (Molinari) just made the team just coming from the Challenge Tour. So I think those couple of spots are plenty.

Q. You might have just answered that. You're not taking numbers 11 and 12s as your captain's picks, you wouldn't do that?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, I don't know.

Q. You are prepared to go beyond numbers 11 and 12 for your captain's picks; is that right?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Most probably, yes. It's going to be more than two most probably, so I will have to go further than 11 and 12.

Q. Just in terms of the timing of your team announcements, there was a lot of talk about whether or not it should continue to be at the end of the tournament at Gleneagles, or to wait to take account of what might be happening in America; is there any change there?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Yes, there's going to be a change. I talked about it with George and with the team, and I think the scenario last time was a delicate one, especially for - well, obviously for the captain and also for the players playing in the States. We have made the decision regarding that, and it's going to be the Monday following Gleneagles. So we are going to wait until whatever happens in the States before we make the decision.

Q. Could you give us a sense of the sort of captain you will be? Will you, for example, be - or rather, do you check the computer all the time? Have you left notes on players lockers? Do you think of taking players out to dinner and saying, come on, get a move on? How will you be? How will your captaincy pan out?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, I would rather keep that for the team. I want to make - I don't want to talk too much about all those things. I think the Ryder Cup is a team event and I'm just going to be myself. Having said that, I think I'm a guy that, you know, tries to be close to the players in that regard. Statistics, they are important, I think Paul McGinley when I was at Celtic Manor did a wonderful job. He had all of the little details handy there. It's nice to have that kind of information, but at the end of the day, it also goes down to how the player is feeling. So you have to combine those things. As I said, I'm going to try to be as close to the players as possible.

Q. Where will the announcement be made? Will it be made at Gleneagles?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Yes, it will be made at Gleneagles, yes.

Q. Paul Casey felt very strongly about how it was announced last time, because he was on the course. Did he talk to you about it?


Q. So it's independent?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: The decision has been independent to that. Looking at it when it happened, as I said, it was not a comfortable situation for anybody. I think, you know, it would be fair for anybody that is playing in the States, that might be on the verge of winning that tournament, and making a change on his possibilities of being in the team; it would be completely unfair to name those two picks before the guy even tees off.

Q. Does that mean that that tournament actually counts now on the points system, because it never used to.

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: You know, when you get to those dates, close to making the final decision on who is going to be on the team and just three weeks from the Ryder Cup, I would like to have an eye on the players that are hot at that time. So if the guy is on the verge of winning and wins that tournament, you know, it means that he's on top of his game. So it would be a good idea to have a thought about him.

Q. In the world No. 1, Luke Donald, you have a resident of Chicago. I wondered if he had agreed to do much testing of the course at Medinah for you before September.

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, I think he's going to be busy just playing golf. I know that he knows the course. He lives next door virtually. If I need extra information, I'm pretty sure he can pass it to me. But it's nice to have a guy that lives closer to the golf course.

Q. George, you seemed to be shaking your head earlier in the answer about whether the points would come. Will the World Ranking points from the final American event count towards the list?

GEORGE O'GRADY: I think we are exactly the same as last time. That tournament in America, the World Ranking points don't count on that one when we come back here. What is different this year, though, is the last time the tournament in America finished on a Monday. This year, it's finishing on a Sunday. So I think Chema's wish is to announce it - we checked it out. And so we are thinking the time for the announcement will be mid-day, is the current thinking.

Q. In South Africa, you were saying that there's absolutely no way, even if results went your way, that you would actually play in the Ryder Cup. Is there not even a percentage of you with some invites to big tournaments that, were you to qualify, would be tempted to pull out the clubs?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, I think it's the third time I'm going to answer that, and I'm not going to answer that question anymore. I made it clear, I made it clear to everyone, and I want to make it clear to the team: Even if, you know, skies fall on me and I manage to play well and win a lot of tournaments and make the team, I am not playing in it, period.

Q. Just a follow up on a different note. As of today in your mind, who do you feel is the best European match play player?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I don't want to give any names regarding that.

Q. The Sunday at Gleneagles was obviously a huge sporting occasion with the finish of the tournament and then the announcement. Was there some part of you that was reluctant to give up that, because obviously there will be a slight letdown Monday?

GEORGE O'GRADY: We have tried it, if you go back over the years, all different ways. We used to finish in Germany and the announcement was at Wentworth once at mid day; then the announcement was at Germany at nine o'clock in the morning. And then when BMW had the last qualifying event, they liked it being that night. And the captain of the day - usually it was the captain's decision; some captains wanted to do it straight after play. This way there's all points that Chema raises about now having events in the States. We do have World Ranking players who don't have to play at Gleneagles. In a way it's slightly discourteous to the tournament not to finish the tournament properly. It was a tremendous finish last time with Edoardo winning that, and it almost was sort of buried in the Ryder Cup news. This way, the tournament gets a fair shot, and the captain can see the conclusion of the American event that night on television, if he wants to, look at the results, and make a considered view. He's got the morning to tell people that he wants to tell and speak the right way. And at 11.30, we are thinking now, it's not definite, a mid day announcement, that allows people to plan their travel, get away that afternoon. Or people that have not been at the tournament, they can fly into Gleneagles and join Monday morning. It's not saying it's going to be like this for all time, but it's what the captain wants now, and it works for us, certainly, as well.

Q. You played with Pádraig Harrington last Sunday obviously. Can you just give us an assessment, please, of where you think he is at the moment with his game, and what you would obviously hope, I would assume, that a three time major champion would play his way on to the team.

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: When I played with him, and actually when we finished playing, we went into the scorer's tent and I said to him that from my point of view, his game is not all that far off. It's true that he's struggled on the greens especially that day but he drove the ball really well. His iron play was okay. It was not great, but it was okay. The only thing that, as I said, let him down was the putter. He totally agreed. You know, I think the way he hit the ball that day, it was okay. You know, there's nothing wrong with that.

MODERATOR: Any other questions?

Q. Another Irish one if you don't mind. You seemed fairly impressed with the information that Paul McGinley brought with him to Celtic Manor and I think you were quoted as being impressed with his performance at the Seve Trophy last year; do you see a future captain in Paul McGinley or even a vice captain?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: There is a potential there. The only thing is that whoever has to be the next captain for the Ryder Cup for the next three, four Ryder Cups, it is going to be tough to pick, because there's going to be a bunch of guys available for that spot. I think Paul in this case has the respect of all the players on Tour. He's been here for many, many years. As I said, I think he did a neat job regarding the stats during that week. Why not, yeah.

Q. Is it important for him to maintain a presence on the Tour, a competitive one?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: That's a personal view. I mean, people might think - some people might think not; some people might think yes. In my case, I've always believed that it's nice to be close to the players and in touch with them.

MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance, and obviously good luck in eight months' time

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.