Ryder Cup Captain Makes Debut in ISPS Handa Wales Open

Posted at 11:04 on 30 April 2012

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Ryder Cup Captain José Maria Olazábal will make his debut in the ISPS Handa Wales Open from May 31-June 3.

Olazábal was drafted in as a Vice-Captain to Colin Montgomerie for The 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor when weather delays caused a reformatting of the competition, but he has never teed it up in the European Tour event played at the same venue.

The two-time Masters champion has, however, won in Wales before and counts the 1991 Epson Grand Prix of Europe at nearby St Pierre among his 23 European Tour titles.

His return to South Wales will give the Spaniard another opportunity to monitor the progress of some of the contenders for his own 2012 European Ryder Cup side at a tournament which takes place a week after the flagship BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club.

Olazábal said: “I am looking forward to going back to Celtic Manor where I have many fond memories from the last Ryder Cup.

“It was an honour to be called into the team room as a Vice-Captain when Colin felt he needed another set of eyes with additional matches out on the golf course. The fact that it turned out to be such a dramatic and emotional victory made it all the more special.

“I now look forward to playing the challenging Twenty Ten Course myself in the ISPS Handa Wales Open. It will be a good chance to see how some of the players vying for a place in this year’s Ryder Cup are performing just three months before the team is selected.”

Olazábal, winner of the Masters Tournament in 1994 and 1999, was also a Ryder Cup Vice-Captain to Nick Faldo in 2008 and made seven appearances in the matches as a player. He combined with his compatriot and great friend Seve Ballesteros to form the most successful partnership in the history of the competition - winning 11, halving two and losing only two of their matches together.

While Olazábal prepares for his first appearance in the ISPS Handa Wales Open, his predecessor Montgomerie will be teeing up for the 10th year running at a venue where he crowned his own glorious Ryder Cup career by leading Europe to a nail-biting 14½-13½ victory.

Some of his players will also be making a welcome return to the scene of their triumph, including Ross Fisher and the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco.

Other contenders for this year’s team under Captain Olázabal teeing up in the ISPS Handa Wales Open include Paul Lawrie and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, currently fifth and sixth respectively on the European points list.

Lawrie was a winner at Celtic Manor in 2002, his last European Tour victory before claiming two titles within a year – at the 2011 Open de Andalucia and the 2012 Commercialbank Qatar Masters.

Past winners of the tournament have also included Ryder Cup stars Graeme McDowell, Robert Karlsson, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Ian Poulter and Paul McGinley. Last year, Alexander Noren triumphed by two strokes before going on to claim the Nordea Masters in his native Sweden and finishing 14th in the 2011 Race to Dubai.

As well as top-class golfing action, the tournament offers a great day out for all the family with a tented village including bar, food outlets, shops selling golf merchandise and opportunities for youngsters to try their hand at golf.

ISPS (International Sports Promotion Society) was founded by Japanese philanthropist, Dr Haruhisa Handa, in 2006 and has fostered partnerships with golf governing bodies worldwide to help develop the game at every level and promote blind and disabled golf.

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