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Jose Maria Olazabal skips final Ryder Cup event

Jose Maria Olazabal plans to go quail-hunting with a shotgun in the hills near Toledo this weekend while his Ryder Cup fate is being decided in the BMW International at Munich.

The two-time Masters champion has again defended his decision not to play in the final qualifying event for September's match against the Americans. Olazabal could be knocked out of the side as Ireland's Eamonn Darcy was in 1991 when he decided to go fishing the last week of the points race.

Darcy was under the notion that if he lost his automatic place on Europe's side for Kiawah Island that captain Bernard Gallacher would hand him a wild card. It was all going well for him as he sat on the bank of a river until compatriot Philip Walton went out of bounds on the penultimate hole of the German Open and let in David Gilford to claim the ninth and last automatic spot.

Then Gallacher named Olazabal, Nick Faldo and Mark James as his picks. Darcy never got back on the team.

Olazabal says he has not spoken to captain Ian Woosnam in the last three months so he has no promises about a wild card. But the 40-year-old Spaniard, who has faced the Americans at every event since 1999, feels he is doing the right thing.

"I've made my point clear," Olazabal said. "I've played that course in Munich before. I shoot 15-under or something and end up 30th or 40th. It's a birdie parade and I'm tired. I've tried hard and I need a rest. If I went, I'd be having only one week off before the match. There's no point me getting to the Ryder Cup like that.

"If I don't keep my place on the team, it will hurt a lot. If I don't get a wild card it will hurt even more."

Olazabal is back in the top 20 this year. He tied for third in the Masters in April and took Tiger Woods to a playoff in California before that.

"Yes, it now depends what others do, but I think I have done my job even though I'm not certain of a place," Olazabal said. "I hold my head up because I've never given up. I fought all the way."

Olazabal is actually fifth in the points race with a week to go, but that is misleading.

The first five spots on the side are determined by world ranking points earned in the last year. Colin Montgomerie would knock Olazabal out of fifth if he finishes 49th or better on Sunday and Paul Casey would do it if he is first or second.

If neither happens, the double Masters champion is safe. But if they do, then he goes into the 10th and last automatic spot based on European Tour earnings and Paul Broadhurst, Johan Edfors and John Bickerton have the chance to oust him.

Broadhurst would need to finish in the top three, Edfors first or second and Bickerton first.

At ninth in the current standings, Paul McGinley has a reason to cheer for Montgomerie and Casey because if one of them gets past Olazabal, his hopes are that much better. Otherwise he is the one most under threat from Broadhurst, Edfors and Bickerton.

Padraig Harrington is eighth and not quite safe yet.

"He's old enough and bold enough to make his own decisions," Harrington said of Olazabal. "I would assume he thinks he's in - but I would go."

Olazabal's decision, however, is to go shooting at birds rather than shooting for birdies.

August 30, 2006

 




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