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Olazabal appointment is fully deserved; COMMENT.

Byline: MARK GARROD

FROM the moment he made a stunning debut and danced on the green at Muirfield Village in 1987, Jose Maria Olazabal has stamped his name on the Ryder Cup.

Now, after a journey of incredible highs and terrible lows, Olazabal is Europe's captain for the match in Chicago next year.

Only the battle with rheumatism that has blighted his career had put a question mark over whether the 44-year-old Spaniard would become the third continental golfer to lead the side.

Seven times a player in the event Olazabal served as Nick Faldo's assistant in Louisville three years ago and then was a late addition to Colin Montgomerie's backroom staff at Celtic Manor.

Despite winning back the trophy Montgomerie (pictured) immediately announced he would be stepping down and said: "I do hope Jose Maria will be well enough to be the next captain.

"He did brilliantly as one of my assistants here. It was between him and me for the captaincy this time and in two years' time he'll be 46, just a year younger than I am now."

Olazabal and fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros formed Europe's most successful partnership in Ryder Cup history, winning 11 and losing only two of 15 games together.

Their last match as a pair in the event was a 2&1 victory over Davis Love - tipped to be the United States' captain next year - and Tom Kite at the Belfry in 1993.

Diagnosed with rheumatoid polyarthritis in both feet, Olazabal did not know if he would ever return to the fairways.

Amazingly, though, under Ballesteros' captaincy returned to the side at Valderrama in 1997 to help Europe retain the trophy.

His role in the 1999 Ryder Cup later that same season would be remembered for the over-the-top celebrations from the Americans as he tried to halve the hole at the 17th.

Olazabal qualified again for the 2006 match at the K Club and won all his three games in a much more fitting finale.

There have been further absences from the game since, but his standing among his peers always made it likely he would be captain one day. That day has now arrived.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 19, 2011
Words:362
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