As the 2011 season comes to a close, in what has been another stellar year for European golf, the countdown to Medinah, Illinois, and The 2012 Ryder Cup is continuing apace as just over nine months now separates European Captain José María Olazábal and his 12 as-yet unknown Team Members from show time in Chicago.
Olazábal will face up to his opposite number, his great friend, long-time competitor and 2012 Team USA Captain Davis Love III, on Friday September 28, 2012, knowing that for three days an enduring friendship must be put aside as their respective Teams battle it out for the right to hoist the illustrious Samuel Ryder Trophy come Sunday evening.
And as we near the end of 2011 and the beginning of another thrilling Ryder Cup year, today sees the first instalment in a series of “Questions with The 2012 Ryder Cup Captains” in which the two leaders will field 20 quick-fire questions to divulge their similarities and differences and reveal some clues as to the men behind the masks.
At the Year-to-Go celebrations that were held at Medinah earlier in the autumn, both Captains spoke of their decades-old bond.
European Captain Olazábal said: “[Me and] Davis go back a long way. We actually turned professional in the same year in 1986 and we have played a lot of times together, and we have played against each other quite a few times at The Ryder Cup.
“You [Davis Love] have had a successful career, but I think most important of all is that you’ve earned the respect of the golf community for the way you have conducted yourself through all these years and I think that is very important.
While Team USA Captain, Davis Love III, said: “We have been friends and competitors for a long, long time, and I think this two-year process is going to bring us even closer together.”
However, both men were insistent on the fact that their close relationship would not alter their fundamental aims of claiming a sought-after victory in the cherished international team match play event.
“Don’t get mistaken,” Olazábal continued. “Even though we have a lot of respect for each other, we played together a lot of times for many years, we are still competitors.
“We are going to try to beat each other like hell, that’s for sure, we are going to try, both of us, to win that trophy.
“But that’s not going to change our relationship at all. When everything is done and over, we’ll be as good friends as we are now. And that, I think, is the true spirit of this event.”
And Davis Love was equally unequivocal.
“Now, Friday morning, everything changes,” he said. “I don't think he's going to give me his radio frequency Friday morning so we can chitchat.
“But I guarantee you, this, though, on Sunday night, there will be two teams celebrating the end of The Ryder Cup together. It always happens, and we will leave here as friends.”
It is clear, then, that the two men have wholehearted respect for each other and agree, despite their transatlantic nurturings, that they have a number of similarities in terms of their personalities and principles.
Davis Love said: “We are both traditional in our beliefs that we need to uphold the values and respect the game,” while Olazábal agreed: “I think we are kind of similar guys. I think we are kind of sentimental in a way. We do have similarities.”
From the initial segment of “Captains’ Questions” it appears that family values are a recurring theme in both men’s answers, and while Davis Love may appear the more adventurous in terms of his participation in extreme sports (see question four), it remains to be seen whether this will ring true in their respective approaches on the renowned Number Three course at Medinah Country Club.
One thing that is wholly unambiguous, though, is the unbridled desire of both Captains to retain, or indeed reclaim, The Ryder Cup come September 2012, a contest that promises to be just as exhilarating as the scenes that unfolded at the Celtic Manor Resort in 2010’s stunning staging.
Questions with The 2012 Ryder Cup Captains: Part One – December 19, 2011
José María Olazábal
1) Where do you like to spend your holidays?
At home or in the hills hunting with my father
2) Hot chocolate or egg nog?
3) Favourite family holiday?
On September 8 - a Regional Holiday, Día de Asturias - the whole family gets together for the whole day to celebrate, just eating, drinking and talking. The only exercise that day is for the jaw!
4) Sleigh ride or skiing?
Neither! I will let others try those things.
Davis Love III
1) Where do you like to spend the holidays?
2) Hot chocolate or egg nog?
3) Favourite family holiday tradition?
My mom’s needlepoint Christmas stockings
4) Sleigh rides or skiing?