Spain’s Jose Maria Olazábal believes Nick Faldo will be remembered as one of the giants of the game. But in answering questions on-line from readers of the Spanish sports daily Marca.com, the 2012 Ryder Cup captain confessed that the six-time major winner had a serious communication problem with his troops at Valhalla in 2008.
“If Nick Faldo could be blamed for anything at Valhalla, it was poor communication with the team,” Olazábal told readers. “I don’t think he knew how to express exactly how he saw the situation and the team didn’t connect. But you have to give him his due. He was criticised repeatedly over his wildcards - Rose and Poulter - and as it turned out, they gave a lot to the team. Faldo is, and will continue to be, one of golf’s greats.”
The 44-year old Basque addressed a number of issues and hinted that Miguel Angel Jiménez, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke are at the top of his short-list as potential assistants at Medinah next year.
He also revealed his ambition to play in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, identified his ideal foursomes pairing and gave his views on the controversial disqualification of Padraig Harrington in Abu Dhabi last week.
Who is the greatest Spanish golfer of all time?
That’s not a question that requires a great deal of thought. We all agree that the great Spanish golfer of all time is, and will be, Severiano Ballesteros.
What is the greatest moment of your life?
From a golfing point of view, my debut in the Ryder Cup and my two Masters at Augusta. But I’m keeping my private moments to myself.
Is the Ryder Cup your swansong? Or do you still think you have more to give as a player, like Langer, who continued to play well after his captaincy?
I certainly don’t consider the Ryder Cup captaincy to be the end of my career, though I do consider it an award for my career. My health is better, though not perfect. But I don’t want to use that as an excuse for playing poorly. My biggest challenge will be to be at the 2014 Ryder Cup as a player.
It was a shame to see a legend like Faldo as a losing captain in Valhalla. I’d like to see him given a second chance, in Europe, if possible. You were there as a vice captain. What did you think of his captaincy?
If Nick Faldo could be blamed for anything at Valhalla, it was poor communication with the team. I don’t think he knew how to express exactly how he saw the situation and the team didn’t connect. But you have to give him his due. He was criticised repeatedly over his wildcards - Rose (sic) and Poulter - and it turned out that they gave a lot to the team. Faldo is, and will continue to be, one of golf’s greats.
It’s early to talk about vice-captains but of the players from your generation, which ones are friends you could rely on for that role?
It’s not simply a question of personal relationships or friendships. It is a question of being technically qualified and there are a few players I like very much because of their Ryder Cup experience and their performances in the Ryder Cup such as Jiménez, McGinley, Clarke. And I could name another half a dozen players. I am not thinking of Sergio Garcia because I expect to have him as a player.
Would you have left Paul Casey out of the last Ryder Cup team? It was a strange decision considering he is one of the best match players in the world and was the world No 5 at the time.
Nobody got left out of the last Ryder Cup team. The big drama on the European Tour was that there were too many players for too few places. I wouldn’t have left out Justin Rose either but I would also have wanted Donald and all the others. The team that eventually played did a sensational job and there’s no doubt that they were the best 12 that week.
Chema, if the last Ryder Cup had ended in a tie and had to be decided in a foursome over three holes, who would you have picked? I’d have gone for Poulter and McDowell because they played better than anyone on the final day.
In foursomes, although they don’t usually play together,the ideal pairing today is McDowell and Jiménez because they play a similar style of game.
I am sure you will come back and win the British Open and qualify for the Ryder Cup in 2014. Will you give me a European Ryder Cup shirt if you pull it off?
If you send me your name and I have one to hand, I’ll do what the footballers do. What I won’t do is take it off in the middle of the course to give it to you.
If Jimenez won two or three tournaments but didn’t qualify for the team, would you pick him?
If Miguel is in form and thinks he would do well, and I also thought he would do well, there would be no reason not to pick him becuase he has been one of the pillars of the team every time he plays in the Ryder Cup.
What do you think about fans phoning in to complain about cheating?
Nobody rings up to complain about cheating. They normally call to point out errors. In the recent Harrington case, he realised the ball oscillated and was totally convinced that it had returned to its original position, which according to the rules means he didn’t think it had moved. Looking at it in super slow motion and in high definition, he agreed straight away that the ball came up one dimple short of returning to its original position. He accepted it and didn’t get annoyed. Technology should also be used in other sports, such as football.