Ryder Cup hero Eamonn Darcy hailed José María Olazábal as the perfect choice to skipper Europe in Chicago next year. But he immediately called on tour chiefs to hand Paul McGinley the Ryder Cup captaincy when the matches go to Scotland in 2014.
A team mate of Olazábal’s when the Fuenterrabia man made his Ryder Cup debut Murifield Village in 1987, Darcy said: “It’s fantastic that they have appointed Olazabal because the players will look up to him. He’s been such a great player and he is still in touch with the players, just as Monty was at Celtic Manor and like McGinley hopefully will be in 2014.
“If McGinley isn’t the next Ryder Cup captain after Olazábal am I going to send the snottiest letter to the tour to complain because Paul is definitely ready now.
“He has been in the wings and he knows what is going on. Just like Olazabal, he is a very grounded fella and that is what you want in the Ryder Cup.”
Irish major winners Pádraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell backed the unanimous decision to hand Olazábal the job of defending the trophy on US soil.
Olazábal and Harrington had a blazing row at the 2003 Seve Trophy over repairing a pitch mark but the Basque ace, who felt his integrity had been questioned, insisted in Abu Dhabi yesterday that they had settled their differences eight years ago.
“Those things sometimes happen on the golf course,” said Olazábal, who indicated that he’d prefer to reduce the number of wildcards from three to two. “Both parties understand where they stand and that’s OK, so that’s already done.”
McDowell described Olazábal as “a winner who will bring a lot of experience to the team room.” But the Ulsterman also expects plenty of passion after hearing team talks from the Basque player at Valhalla in 2008 and at Celtic Manor last October.
Recalling Olazábal’s contribution in Wales, McDowell said: “The biggest moment for me was on the Monday morning before the singles matches with Jose Maria in the team locker room. There was a great photo of him and Seve in there with him hopping up on Seve’s shoulders to try and see a pin.
“He broke down in tears that morning thinking about Seve, about the Ryder Cup and the experiences they shared in it. For me there is not another golf tournament on the planet that makes grown men cry like the Ryder Cup.
“That moment encapsulated everything about the Ryder Cup, how passionate and emotional it is for all the players involved.”
Darcy hopes Olazábal can appoint Ballesteros as one of his vice captains but the newly appointed captained said that was unlikely as the legend from Santander continues to receive treatment following surgery to remove a brain tumour.
Seve said: “I suppose that it will be very difficult for me to be in the United States and witness the captaincy of my dear friend, but I hope to watch it on TV and see his success.”
Darcy saw the birth of that famous Ryder Cup partnership at Muirfield Village 24 years ago, where he holed the winning putt in his singles with Ben Crenshaw to give Europe victory on US soil for the first time.
Olazábal claimed three points alongside Ballesteros as he made the first of his seven Ryder Cup appearances as a player, which was a fact that had escaped Darcy until yeserday.
“That wasn’t his first Ryder Cup was it? Was it really? Wow, his first and my last,” the Wicklow man said, recalling his fourth appearance in the biennial matches. “I remember it well and how Seve took him under his wing. They just became a formidable pairing. Olazábal matured with Seve, who did the same with Paul Way at the Belfry. People just don’t realise. It’s so sad that that man is out of the game.
“You could see back then that he (Olazábal) was going to be a major winner - he was so gutsy and he just revelled in it. And he had a fantastic teacher in Seve. Seve for me was one of the greatest match players ever and Olazabal learned so much for him.
“He will be a very strong captain, just like Monty, who was very clever getting such a good team around him. He did the opposite of what Faldo did at Valhalla, which was just ridiculous. Monty was clever enough to get the right people around him and that made a big difference.
“I knew him before Muirfeld Village, of course, but I got to know him better later on. He used to called me A-Mon. He didn’t call me Darce. A-Mon, he would say.
“I remember how he started dancing his flamenco dancing on the 18th green at the closing ceremony. And one of the American officials came up to him said it wasn’t the thing to do. But Jack Nicklaus said, it doesn’t matter we have lost all the greens anyway. We were putting on the roots , which is why they were so fast. They sprayed them with green paint every day.”
Europe has won seven of the 11 Ryder Cup matches played since Europe famously retained the trophy in 1987 with the following side: Ian Woosnam, Howard Clark, Sam Torrance, Nick Faldo, Olazábal, Jose Rivero, Sandy Lyle, Darcy, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros, Ken Brown and Gordon Brand Jnr.
“It was the first time that we won it over there and suddenly we turned the corner,” Darcy said. “More and more players were starting to play in America too. That’s a huge advantage. The crowds are difficult and the courses are set up diffently. Jack set the course up to frighten the life out of us and it ended up frigntening the life out of them.”
Muirfield Village also marked the third of Tony Jacklin’s four successive captaincies, which were followed by three matches with Scotland’s Bernard Gallacher at the helm for another three.
The 2012 Ryder Cup will be the 39th celebration of matches that have been played since 1927 and Ireland has yet to provide a team captain, which is a fact that Darcy finds hard to stomach.
“Ireland should have had a Ryder Cup captain before now but guys like Tony Jacklin and Bernard Gallacher had it for too long,” said the 58-year old, who tried in vain for the 2006 captaincy. “They had it for seven Ryder Cups between them and that was totally wrong.”
The matches will be played at Gleneagles in Scotland in 2014. Maybe then it will be 40th time lucky for Ireland.