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24 Jan 2009 11:05
The stumbling search to find a new Ryder Cup captain for Europe will go down to the wire in Dubai next week with Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal contesting the honour.
The Spaniard was installed as hot favourite to get the job in Kentucky last September as soon as Paul Azinger’s US team had ended European domination of the biennial team tournament in spectacular style.
He had been assistant skipper on that occasion to Nick Faldo and left the United States with praise ringing in his ears over how he had done the job in stark contrast to the barrage of criticism that fell on the Englishman’s head.
The problem was that Olazabal still harboured aspirations to make the 10-strong team again and his indecision opened the doors for others like victorious 2006 captain Ian Woosnam and Scots Sandy Lyle and Montgomerie.
Montgomerie, like the Spaniard keen to make the team again, had previously been earmarked to take the captaincy in 2014 when the tournament returns to Scotland for the first time in 41 years.
He had clearly expressed his support for Lyle to be in charge at Celtic Manor, Wales in September 2010 with Olazabal taking over for Medinah in 2012.
But a stormy meeting of the European PGA Tour’s 15-man tournament committee in Abu Dhabi last week reportedly moved in favour of younger men, closer to the players in terms of age, being put in charge.
This was seen as being in reaction to the 51-year-old Faldo’s struggles to communicate with players and press in Louisville.
But as Montgomerie would be 51 by the time Gleneagles came around in 2014, he reportedly was told that it was now-or-never this time around.
The eight-times European Order of Merit winner has remained coy over his prospects saying in Abu Dhabi: “It would be an honour to be selected, but we are no further forward with that process. I’ll have to let you know if that has been offered or not, but at this stage it hasn’t.”
The odds though tumbled on a Montgomerie captaincy and he looked set to be named when the committee meet again in Dubai next Wednesday.
That was until the injury-prone Olazabal’s manager Sergio Gomez stepped in to say that the 42-year-old double Masters champion believed he was still very much in the picture.
“He is available, if he is offered the job he will say yes.” he said.
“We know it is a matter of two and there are factors favouring Jose Maria and factors favouring Monty.
“The chances of him making the team are not what he wanted or expected, so he made up his mind that he would accept the captaincy if it was offered.”
The chief executive of the European Tour George O’Grady has said that only one appointment will be made in Dubai ahead of the Desert Classic, but Olazabal’s sudden re-emergence as a candidate has raised the possibility of a dual appointment as was the case four years ago with Woosman and Faldo.
That would see Montgomerie named for Wales and Olazabal given the job for Medinah.
The Spaniard withdrew from the Qatar Masters this week with a wrist injury and Montgomerie failed to make the cut, but both are expected to play in Dubai next week.
The Americans have already made their choice of captain with Corey Pavin taking over from Azinger, upsetting many golf fans who had hoped Azinger would be given the job again.
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