Olazabal is Europe's new Ryder Cup captain
Jose Maria Olazabal is Europe's new Ryder Cup captain, it was confirmed today.
Olazabal has been favourite for the job - indeed the only real candidate - since Colin Montgomerie confirmed he was stepping down immediately after the dramatic one-point victory at Celtic Manor in October.
The 44-year-old Spaniard, a vice-captain for the last two matches, competed only three times last year because of a continuing battle with rheumatism, but starting with this week's Abu Dhabi Championship hopes to play considerably more events this season and right through to the defence of the trophy in Chicago in September next year.
Olazabal becomes just the third continental European to lead the side.
Seve Ballesteros, with whom he formed a stunning partnership that saw them lose only two of 15 games, was captain on home soil for the win at Valderrama in 1997.
Bernhard Langer then took over from Sam Torrance for the 2004 match in Detroit - and led Europe to a record nine-point victory.
Corey Pavin's successor as American captain will be unveiled on Thursday. It is firmly expected to be Davis Love, one of his backroom team in Wales.
Olazabal said: "The two Masters wins at Augusta National are the highlight of my playing career, but this is my proudest moment.
"Golf has been my life and representing Europe in the Ryder Cup has given me so much enjoyment, so to be named the European Ryder Cup captain is something very special and I am looking forward to the next 20 months before we reach Medinah.
"Without question the Ryder Cup has given me many memorable times, especially with Seve from the moment we were first partners in 1987 and Europe won in America for the first time.
"We were unbeaten in 1989 and 1991 and we won our last match together in 1993.
"Seve was also our captain at Valderrama in 1997 and that was especially significant because the match was played in Spain and on the Continent for the first time and, of course, we won."
In all I've played under five captains - Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher, Mark James, Ian Woosnam and Seve - and the last in 2006 with Woosie was one to remember because we won 18½ - 9½.
"I played two fourball matches with Sergio (Garcia) and we won both and then I beat Phil Mickelson in the singles, which was the last match I played.
"It was also a wonderful experience to be involved as a vice-captain with Nick Faldo in 2008 and then again with Colin Montgomerie when we regained the Cup at Celtic Manor last year.
"I've learned a lot along the way and linked to my own experiences I look forward to drawing on all that knowledge with the aim, of course, to keeping the cup in our possession.
"We all know the Ryder Cup is one of the most exciting and important competitions in the golfing calendar and that it always inspires team members and spectators alike, but there is nothing like holding that trophy at the end of the week.
"I have spent a lot of my career in America and the fans there have always been fair to me.
"We want to keep the cup and that will be our priority, but I know that the American team will share with us the desire for this match to continue the fabulous tradition of the Ryder Cup with fair play and good sportsmanship the vital ingredients.
"I have accepted the captaincy, but I think my desire to keep playing is known by everyone."
Speaking ahead of the Abu Dhabi Championship, Olazabal added: "This is the first of four tournaments in succession I am playing on the Desert Swing of the European Tour. I am looking forward to competing again and giving myself the chance to win.
"But I want to stress it is a great honour to become the European Ryder Cup captain and I will be committed to getting everything right in the build-up to the 2012 match."
Irish Independent Sport Star Awards
Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.