Jose Maria Olazabal. Ryder Cup
Luke Donald has opted for more experience on the sidelines at the 2023 Ryder Cup in Italy by naming José María Olazábal as his fourth Vice Captain for the showdown with the US at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club from September 26 – October 1.
The 57-year-old Spaniard a Ryder Cup legend, having played for Europe on seven occasions from 1987 to 2006, has been a Vice Captain on three further occasions, in 2008, 2010 and 2014, and, of course, was Captain for the most famous European comeback victory of all time at Medinah in 2012.
In his seven Ryder Cup appearances as a player, which yielded three wins and a tie in 1989 which saw Europe retain the trophy, Olazábal played 31 times, winning 18 of those matches and returning 20.5 points in total for the European cause. His partnership with the late, great Seve Ballesteros still stands head and shoulders above any other pairing in the contest’s history, the Spanish duo winning 12 points from their 15 outings together.
Outside of the Ryder Cup arena, Olazábal has notched up 33 professional wins worldwide, including 23 on the European Tour from 1986 to 2005. But he is best remembered for his two Masters triumphs at Augusta National — in 1994 and 1999 — the second being especially emotional as it came in the wake of fears that rheumatoid arthritis might mean he would never play professionally again.
Olazábal joins the successful European Ryder Cup Captain of 2018, Denmark’s Thomas Bjørn, in Luke Donald’s backroom team, alongside Italian Edoardo Molinari, a winner with Team Europe in 2010, and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, a member of Olazábal’s winning Medinah team alongside Donald in 2012.
Olazábal said: “With my previous experiences in the Ryder Cup I am obviously thrilled to be back involved once again. I am really looking forward to feeling that special adrenaline flow, the intensity and the electricity that only the Ryder Cup can bring — I’m really excited to be part of it all again.
“It was a very nice surprise to be asked by Luke. I didn’t expect it but I was delighted when the call came. My role will be the same as the rest of the Vice Captains, namely to support and help Luke and the 12 players in any way we can, so they can perform at their best and be able to win that trophy back.
“I have no doubts that Luke will be a great Captain. He has played in the Ryder Cup four times and won four times and he therefore knows what is required to perform well in the match.
“He is great on detail and how important things like team spirit are. On top of all of that, he is still very much a competitive player playing at a high level. Because of that he is close to the players and he knows what they will need to perform to their best. My job as Vice-Captain will be to help him achieve that.”
Captain Donald said: “When you think of José María Olázabal, you immediately think of the Ryder Cup. He brings amazing passion and I couldn’t be more excited to have him on board.
“He was my Captain when I last played in the Ryder Cup — at Medinah in 2012 — and I thoroughly enjoyed playing for him that year. He picked me to play number one in the singles and that was hugely gratifying.
“To know he had that respect and confidence in me to go out and lead Europe in such a pressurised last day environment meant a lot and this feels, perhaps, that I am returning that favour a little bit, as I have a huge amount of confidence in him.
“Just his mere presence brings energy to any Ryder Cup environment and I saw that first hand when I asked him to be involved in the Hero Cup we staged in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of this year.
“He was such a big part of that week, being with the players and sharing stories with them of just what the Ryder Cup is all about. People notice when José María walks into a room and you could see at the Hero Cup how much everyone respected him and admired him for all he’s done in the game. I could not be more excited to have him on my team.”