Time right for Olazabal to take Ryder reins

JOSE Maria Olazabal has the leadership and inspirational qualities to enable Europe to mount a successful defence of the Ryder Cup at Medinah, near Chicago, in two years time.

Ryder Cup insiders report that Olazabal will be named as Europe's next captain before Christmas -- a move that will be welcomed by many as his passion for the event has shone through in each of his seven appearances as a player from 1987 to 2006.

There's also symmetry about the Spaniard having the captaincy in an away match to the Americans as he made his debut as a 21-year-old in 1987 at Muirfield Village, Ohio, when Europe won for the first time on American soil since it began in 1927.

The role is made for 'Ollie'. As a captain of the Royal Trophy Team (Europe vs Asia) in Thailand in 2008 and a vice-captain to Nick Faldo in the Ryder Cup at Valhalla the same year, Olazabal impressed with his passion.

His big drawback has been ongoing health problems, which have curtailed his playing days in recent years.

Olazabal staged a great comeback from rheumatoid polyarthritis to win the 1999 Masters, his second Green Jacket after his first in 1994.

Top players including Lee Westwood back the Spaniard for the captaincy and Celtic Manor skipper Colin Montgomerie echoed the call.

Monty even drafted in Ollie to his backroom team on the second day of the Ryder Cup last October.

Olazabal has expressed reservations about taking on the captaincy if he could not play regularly on Tour, in accord with the line of thinking that a Ryder Cup skipper should be mixing competitively with the players.

However, considering he will be 45 in February, and even if he can only manage a limited playing schedule, this is the time for Olazabal to claim his place at the hub of a Ryder team.

The captaincy for Gleneagles in 2014 will be hotly contested, with Irish players Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke, and Denmark's Thomas Bjorn and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiminez, among the contenders.