Jose Maria Olazabal wants to replace Colin Montgomerie as Europe Ryder Cup captain -- provided he is healthy enough to take on the role.
The Spanish player, who took part in seven Ryder Cups before becoming vice-captain for the last two, appears to be the unanimous choice among Europe’s leading players to take over from Montgomerie for the 2012 match at in Chicago.
Olazabal said on Tuesday there would be “only one answer -- yes” if he was healthy and offered the job.
“It’s been mentioned, by the players, by Monty. We have talked about it a little bit -- there is just one issue, my health. Time will tell,” Olazabal told Sky Sports.
The popular Olazabal was one of Montgomerie’s vice-captains as Europe regained the trophy with a dramatic victory over the United States at Celtic Manor in Wales on Monday. He was also an assistant to Nick Faldo at Valahalla two years ago. But his appearances on tour have been limited in recent years as he battles rheumatoid arthritis.
“You need to be close to the players and play with them during the qualifying process, that is why it (health) is the only question mark,” said the 44-year-old Olazabal, who has only played in one event this season. “But I have always said the Ryder Cup is special, it’s a unique event, and it’s been great to be part of it.”
Olazabal has an impressive Ryder Cup record, winning 18 of his 31 matches for a 66 percent average, 1 percent better than Montgomerie. He has been on the winning side with Europe three times.
Montgomerie, who confirmed he would be standing down as captain after writing a new chapter in his illustrious Ryder Cup record, said Olazabal would be “everybody’s choice” to succeed him.
“He has a lot of experience -- as much as I have -- and I am sure he will do as good, if not a better, job than I did,” Montgomerie said. “That’s it for me with the Ryder Cup, unless I try to qualify as a player.”
Ireland’s Padraig Harrington agreed with his departing captain.
“I think he’d be the choice of all the players. He had a great Ryder Cup career. He looks like he’d be a great captain but it’s a tough job,” Harrington said.
Darren Clarke, another of Montgomerie’s assistants over the last two months, ruled himself out of the running for the 2012 captaincy, insisting he wanted to qualify for the team as a player.
“Jose Maria has been battling illness, but if he can come back to proper form then all of Europe and all of this team would welcome him as captain in two years’ time,” Clarke said.
Montgomerie also favors Olazabal as his replacement. When asked about who would take over for Chicago in 2012, Montgomerie replied: "I do hope Jose Maria will be well enough to be the next captain.
"He did brilliantly as one of my assistants here and it was also only right that we had a picture of him and Seve (Ballesteros) in our team room and then at the closing ceremony,” he added. "It was between him and me for the captaincy this time and in two years' time he'll be 46, just a year younger than I am now."
Olazabal and Ballesteros formed the best partnership in Ryder Cup history, losing only two of 15 games together, and both played their part in this victory. Ballesteros, battling brain cancer, was linked up to the team from his home in Spain and gave them inspiration, even calling on them to "go get them so hard that they'll all be caddies in the future."
Olazabal, Nick Faldo's vice-captain two years ago, joined the backroom staff only on Saturday – when Montgomerie decided he needed more eyes on the course under the weather-altered format -- after initially turning down offers to become a vice-captain earlier n the process. Olazabal has played only once this year because of his continuing fight with rheumatism, but is due to return to action at the Castello Masters later this month.
Paul McGinley, another of the assistants and at 43 probably happy to wait until Gleneagles in 2014 to put his name forward, spoke up for Olazabal, too.
"It would be great if the honor comes my way, but I hope Olly will be next," he said. "Fingers crossed for him."