Mark James believes the Spanish connection will prove decisive as Europe bid to win the Ryder Cup on American soil for only the fourth time in their history.
The 1999 captain believes that Jose Maria Olazabal’s team will deliver victory in honour of the great Seve Ballesteros, whose spirit will be keenly felt by every one at Medinah this week.
And James feels the key man in Europe’s bid is another mercurial Spaniard whose passion for the Ryder Cup derives from his compatriots – Sergio Garcia.
The 32-year-old matador is back in the European team after taking himself out of the selection scenario two years ago because he had lost the spark that he thrives on in Ryder Cup golf. But after playing himself back into the top 20 in the world this past year, the five-time Cup veteran is back for another crack at the Americans.
“I think Garcia will make the difference. Having him back in the side and on form will be a big boost for Olazabal,” said James. “Sergio is great to have in the team room, he’s a leader and a he’s a lot of fun to have around.”
Garcia was used as an assitant at Celtic Manor two years ago and formed a formidable partnership with Olazabal at the K Club in 2006. Olazabal is now the man tasked with winning the Cup for a sixth time in eight matches and a second this century in the United States.
“Olly has got everything he could wish for for this match,” said James. “He has played in a lot of Ryder Cups, he’s got experienced assistants, he’s got some solid, mature players on the team and it’s an experienced team.”
And of Ballesteros, with whom Olazabal formed the most successful foursomes and fourballs partnership in Ryder Cup history, James believes his presence will be acknowledged in the final hours before the match.
“A first Ryder Cup without him will inevitably inspire thoughts about Seve,” said James. “The European team will be aware of it, of course they will, but when you’re on that first tee it’s 100 per cent focus on the task at hand.”
And James believes Olazabal has the perfect blend of experience and youth to take the fight to Davis Love’s home team.
“I thought the Europeans were favourites when Olazabal named Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts as his wild card picks, and I still think that,” he said.