Sep 14 2012
It is impossible to think about Jose Maria Olazabal in the Ryder Cup without also thinking about the late Seve Ballesteros.
Their record of 11 wins and only two defeats in 15 games together made them the most formidable pairing in the event's recent history - but their contribution to the event went far beyond that.
Ballesteros became a captain like no other in 1997, racing around Valderrama on his buggy as though he was being paid by the mile, his determination to succeed such that he more than once woke assistant Miguel Angel Jimenez up in the middle of the night to discuss his latest plans. "Seve will be present somehow. I will have to find a way," Olazabal said.
Now Olazabal is in charge and although no longer with us Ballesteros will certainly not be forgotten during the week at Medinah.
He added: "But I'm not going to be waking up at three and calling any of my vice-captains to check on pairings for the next day! It's very difficult to compare to Seve in any way. He was really all over the place - I don't know how he managed to be in so many places at the same time to be honest.
"He was very close to the players, sometimes a little too close, trying to hit the shots. I'm not going to go that far."
Ballesteros helped to prepare Olazabal for this moment before he lost his battle with a brain tumour in May last year. He had been appointed as Colin Montgomerie's successor three months earlier and while he spoke then of hoping that Ballesteros might be well enough to travel with him to the match he knew the chances were slim.
"I talked to Seve about the captaincy when I made a couple of visits to his home when he was sick," he said. "He was very relaxed - he had a different view of it!"
Gone by then clearly was the intensity Ballesteros brought to the match and instilled into his young protege.
"I had heard about the Ryder Cup, but I had never seen it until I took part (in 1987 at Muirfield Village) because it wasn't on our television at home," he added. "It's something that is completely different. You don't see that atmosphere somewhere else. Seve anticipated that for me well in advance - as soon as I was in the team he made it clear to me.
"He told me the crowds were going to be big, loud, so that helped a lot. But you have to play in it to really get the feel of what it is. The first Ryder Cup I was learning and I let him do everything - he was in charge. As I played more we got to the level where we were approaching the match from the same perspective. It took, I would say, three Ryder Cups."