An emotionally exhausted José María Olazábal has ruled out continuing as Ryder Cup captain, saying there are "eight or nine candidates" who could replace him for Gleneagles in two years' time.
The Spaniard, who masterminded Europe's dramatic 14½-13½ win at Medinah, arrived at Heathrow late on Monday night together with two of his players, Francesco Molinari and Nicolas Colsaerts, and was still on a high on Tuesday morning while also conceding that it had been a tough 21 months.
He named Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn as possible successors and added that Lee Westwood, Paul Lawrie, Ian Poulter and Padraig Harrington are future Ryder Cup captains. But he also warned whoever is taking over of the pressures of the job.
"Would I like to do it again? Yes, in a way, but I can assure you that's going to be a no, period," he said. "First of all it's a lot of work. You have to be in so many places. [The next captain] should be prepared for that. It takes a lot [out] of you during the stretch of time from when you're named captain to the playing of the Ryder Cup.
"And all the people know that [constantly being in the public eye] is the part that has been hard on me. So I am now going to take a step back and go back to my normal life."
Low on sleep but buoyed by a phone call from the king of Spain – who, apparently, was "over the moon" – Olazábal said he would like to concentrate on his own game now, attempting to get back to his best and possibly even qualify as a player for Gleneagles. First, however, he was going to go home and lie in front of the television. "I am going to go home and rest. I will turn the phone off. I am not going to take any phone calls. I am going to go home, turn the TV on and lie down," he said.
Flanked by Colsaerts, who looked tired but unbelievably happy, Olazábal said he would be prepared to return as a vice-captain in two years' time – if asked – but that he would not do anything to force his involvement in an event that now surely defines his career more than the two majors he won as a player. The main advice for his successor, who is likely to be named in the first quarter of 2013, was that he should not listen to anything the experts say on TV or write in the newspapers, just focus on the task ahead and ensure the players are happy and believe in themselves.
That much he achieved himself. Colsaerts – apart from confirming that he had been the last man standing at the party on Sunday night, dismissing suggestions that Poulter had been even close to matching him – talked about how Olazábal's passion had inspired the players. "You could see it in his eyes," said the Belgian, one of Olazábal's picks and a Ryder Cup debutant who shot eight birdies during his fourballs win together with Lee Westwood on the Friday. "José is a very passionate man with an unbelievable size of a heart. He made clear to us that this was going to be very, very special. So everyone looked at each other and understood the importance of this cup in this man's life. And during the week, when you looked in this guy's eyes … it's pretty intense."
Poulter, of course, received special praise for his astonishing performance and, talking of intense eyes, Olazábal recounted an incident during the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor which, perhaps more than anything, had showed him what the competition means for the Englishman.
The team had been in the locker room on the final day, preparing to go out for their singles matches, and Olazábal had hugged each player and offered them small pieces of advice. Then Poulter emerged, eyes bulging. "I looked straight at him in the eyes with the intention of saying a few words and then I looked at his face, at his eyes again, and then just said, 'OK, you're ready.'"
Poulter, on Sunday night, had told Olazábal that he did not care if he won a major now but the Spaniard said on Tuesday there is still plenty of time for the 36-year-old to produce a Ryder Cup-like performance over four individual days. Olazabal said: "He has got the game [to win a major]. The only thing, if anything, is that he lacks a little bit of power. And that, these days, is important, to have that extra gear.
"[But] Ian is still young and if the conditions are right, he will be knocking on the door. It is not as if he is not going to have a chance. He is going to have a chance down the road absolutely."
And with that Olazábal was gone, still trying to make sense of three remarkably draining but ultimately rewarding days. What he achieved at Medinah may never quite sink in.
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