VIRGINIA WATER, England, May 22 (Reuters) - Jose Maria Olazabal knows it is a long shot at the age of 47 but he has not given up hope of making a Ryder Cup return as a player at Gleneagles next year.
The inspirational Spaniard was Europe’s captain at the 2012 edition in Illinois where his team produced a remarkable comeback to beat Davis Love’s U.S. side by 14 1/2 points to 13 1/2.
After spending almost two years planning and fretting over the biennial team event, Olazabal is back working on his own game and feels a return to the playing ranks is just about within his reach.
“I recognise it will be difficult to be part of the Ryder Cup as a player once again and in order to do that I really have to raise the level of my game,” Olazabal told Reuters in an interview on the eve of the PGA Championship at Wentworth.
“But raising my game is my goal at the moment. My objective is to regain my form, be more consistent and improve my results. If I can do that it might just work out.”
Olazabal played a total of seven Ryder Cups after making his debut in 1987, his last appearance coming seven years ago at the K Club in Ireland.
The 1994 and 1999 U.S. Masters champion took heart from new captain Paul McGinley’s suggestion on Tuesday that the Irishman would keep all options open for his three wildcard picks.
McGinley said he would even keep an eye on Bernhard Langer after the 55-year-old German excelled in the opening three rounds of last month’s U.S. Masters.
“The competition is very strong today but if you play well enough you have a chance,” said Olazabal who is also involved in the Nespresso Trophy UK Challenge, an amateur tournament where the winners get the chance to meet him in San Sebastian, Spain.
”Look at Paul Lawrie for instance,“ he added, referring to the 44-year-old Scot. ”Nobody thought about him two years prior to the 2012 Ryder Cup and look what he did.
“He managed to win a few events, played consistently and earned the right to be there so it’s a possibility.”
Olazabal is this week making his 10th appearance of the season on the European Tour. He has missed the cut four times and his best result was a tie for 17th at the Dubai Desert Classic in February.
“I‘m working on my game and improving but I‘m still hitting the odd bad shot that costs me dearly and that’s what I have to get rid of,” he said.
”My driving has always been my Achilles heel. It’s improving but I‘m still not consistent enough especially at courses like this.
“It’s very demanding off the tee here and that can be a bit problematic.”
Olazabal preferred to have only two wildcard picks in his 12-man team last year and he said McGinley’s decision to have one more captain’s selection for the 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland may provide him with a headache or two.
“Increasing his picks will give him more options because weird things can happen like players getting injured or all of a sudden a young kid can come in to the picture in the last few weeks of qualifying and do extraordinarily well,” the Spaniard said.
”But it can also give a captain more headaches having more wildcards. Any picks can be controversial.
“We know the level of scrutiny from the media and TV these days and in that regard it is a bit more difficult for the captain.”
Olazabal had in mind the decision he made to omit Ireland’s Padraig Harrington in 2012.
“It wasn’t easy to leave a player like Harrington out, a three-times major winner and an experienced player,” he said. “That’s why I say you can give yourself some headaches by having more picks.” (Editing by John Mehaffey)