NEWPORT, Wales -- Jose Maria Olazabal hopes Paul Casey can return to fitness and still challenge for his Ryder Cup team.
While Olazabal plays in this week's ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor – the scene of Europe’s famous victory over the Americans two years ago – Casey is out of action again.
The former world No. 3 missed the first two months of the season after dislocating his shoulder snowboarding and has had more problems in the last month.
He pulled out of The Players Championship after nine holes, withdrew from the Volvo World Match Play and, after missing the halfway cut in the BMW PGA Championship by nine shots last Friday, decided not to play the Memorial Tournament in Ohio.
"I feel really sorry for him. We all know how good he can play," said Olazabal. "All I am hoping is that he gets healthy again and shows form. I wish him the very best."
Olazabal knows all about battling with injury. He was given a wild card into the 1995 Ryder Cup, but withdrew because of rheumatism in his feet. It kept him out of the game for the best part of a year.
Casey, the only player ever to make a hole-in-one to win a Ryder Cup match, is down in 27th place in the points race. There are still three months to go before the top 10 win automatic selection for Chicago, but first he has to start playing again.
Olazabal opted for only two wild cards rather than the three of predecessor Colin Montgomerie, so that does not help Casey's cause, either.
The only player in a current top-10 spot playing in Wales this week is Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, while there are just four survivors of the 2010 side in the field -- brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ross Fisher, who since the match has dropped to 157th in the world.
Olazabal rates Lawrie "pretty much in" following his runner-up finish at the BMW PGA Championship, but insists he didn’t make a special request of the European Tour to partner him for the second time in a month.
The last occasion was the Spanish Open and Lawrie reckoned he played "as bad as I can" in missing the cut.
"I'm not going to judge a player on what happens in any given week," said Olazabal.
This week's field also includes 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie, who shouldn’t have any trouble sleeping on the eve of the event. On Monday, Montgomerie played 36 holes of U.S. Open qualifying -- without success -- after driving from Wentworth to his Perthshire home to get a putter and then back down to Surrey overnight.
As if that was not enough, he then went home again before driving through the night once more to Celtic Manor.
"Just me and Eddie Stobart lorries," he said of the overnight traffic. "Flying would be really sensible, but I had nothing else to do and I don't get a lot of time to myself."
Meanwhile in Wales, the Duke of Roxburghe will be looking on with great pride as his son, Ted Innes-Ker, makes his European Tour debut. Two years after watching as Europe won back the Ryder Cup, the 28-year-old Inner-Ker has described it as "a dream come true" to be playing in the same event as Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and four players off that team.
"It's the most unbelievable opportunity for me and completely surreal," said Innes-Ker after partnering his father in the eve-of-tournament pro-am. "I'm used to playing in smaller events. I'd always wanted to turn professional, but my parents urged me to go and get a degree first."
Innes-Ker went on to work as an event assistant for the European Tour, joined WSM Sponsorship and then was given the chance to turn professional by this week's title sponsor.
He has already played in three Asian Tour events and has ambitions to try for a European Tour card -- helped by the fact that the first qualifying event is at his home course, The Roxburghe in the Scottish border country.
"My game's improved enormously in the last year, but this event is a big step up for me and just making the cut is going to be a tall order," Innes-Ker said. "Really enjoy it -- that's my main aim for the week."
He plays the first two rounds with Spaniard Carlos Del Moral and Argentina's Emiliano Grillo.