Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Olazabal: Cup Is Not a Priority

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Olazabal: Cup Is Not a Priority

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID SMITH

THERE was a touch of irony about Jos" Maria Olazabal's decision to choose The Belfry as the place where he would confirm his list of priorities for the year.

Not only is the famous Midlands course the venue for the [pound]1million Benson and Hedges International Open, in which defending champion Olazabal goes into today's second round just one shot behind overnight leaders Paul McGinley and Hen-rik Stenson, it will also host the 34th Ryder Cup between 28-30 September.

It may have been expected that Olazabal, a valued European team member in six out of the last seven Cup clashes against the United States, would have ringed those dates first before any others in his diary.

But he insisted: "The Ryder Cup is not a priority. It's not going to be the end of the world if I don't make it."

It is hard to imagine a European side not graced by the Spaniard's imposing presence. Indeed, with his line-up likely to be weakened by the worrying form of Colin Montgomerie and the decision of players of the stature of Jesper Parnevik and Sergio Garcia to base themselves in America where they may not gain automatic selection, the last thing team captain Sam Torrance needed to hear was an apparent lack of enthusiasm on the part of Olazabal.

Yet the 35-year-old has come to realise that standards of play on the international circuit are rising fast and being a double Masters champion counts for nothing

coming down the stretch on a Sunday afternoon with a title in the balance.

That is why Olazabal has joined the list of those playing more in America, at the expense of appearances on the European Tour.

He said: "I made a decision to play more over there because I am at the stage of my career where I need to make improvements in certain areas of my game. To do that, I need to make sacrifices. …

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