Captain sees value in playing best hand

Larry Fine

EUROPE captain José Maria Olazábal said there was a simple formula for winning the Ryder Cup, and the Spaniard was true to his word, beginning his campaign by sending out world number one Rory McIlroy in today’s opening match.

“I wanted to have my strongest foursome pairings tomorrow for the first session,” Olazabal said after announcing McIlroy and fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell would lead off against Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker.

“We are not hiding anything. We are not second-guessing here. We are just going out to try to win points. That’s the only way I see we might have a chance of winning this event. We have to go for it.”

Olazabal boiled down the three-day event to its essence. Of the 28 points available, Europe needed 14 to retain the cup and the US hosts needed 14.5 to snatch it back.

“So just send the best players out there and see if they can perform well and manage to win those points,” he explained.

The Spaniard said his great friend and mentor Seve Ballesteros, who died last year aged 54 after a battle with cancer, would have adopted the same pragmatic approach.

“Just play hard, play with passion and win the damn points,” said Olazabal.

Olazabal was decisive in fashioning his line-up, but said he would get out of the way and let his players do their part.

“I’m going to be close to them, but just so they know I’m there if they want me for something,” the two-times Masters champion said. “I’m not going to be telling the player what shot he has to hit.

“They know their game. I’m not going to tell Rory to hit a certain shot on to the green. First of all, he will hit a six-iron from 200 yards and I will be hitting a three-iron, so he’s got a different picture of the ball flying towards the green.”

Besides leading off with McIlroy and McDowell in the opening foursomes, Olazabal paired Luke Donald with Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter with Justin Rose, and Lee Westwood with Francesco Molinari for the rest of the morning session.

Donald and Garcia were set to take on Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley; Westwood and Molinari faced Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, while Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker were set to play the anchor match against Poulter and Rose.