Ryder Cup 2012: Jose Maria Olazabal leads Miguel Angel Jiminez, Paul Lawrie and Nicolas Colsaerts to USA

From Heathrow to Chicago! Olazabal leads European Ryder Cup team to USA ahead of bid to defend crown at Medinah

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UPDATED:

10:59 GMT, 24 September 2012

And so it begins. Jose Maria Olazabal bid his farewell to European shores as he took his Ryder Cup team to America to defend the trophy they won in dramatic fashion two years ago.

Team captain Olazabal, his vice captain Miguel Angel Jimenez, Paul Lawrie and German Nicolas Colsaerts were among the team members jetting out to Chicago in good time for the European Ryder Cup team’s defence of their crown.

There was not a full complement of Olazabal’s team because the majority of them are already on the other side of the pond.

We'll hang on to this! Team Vice Captain Miguel Angel Jimenez poses with the Ryder Cup trophy at Heathrow before flying to the US

We'll hang on to this! Team Vice Captain Miguel Angel Jimenez poses with the Ryder Cup trophy at Heathrow before flying to the US

Captain fantastic: Jose Maria Olazabal was taking his team to America ahead of their defence of the Ryder Cup

Captain fantastic: Jose Maria Olazabal was taking his team to America ahead of their defence of the Ryder Cup

Here we go: Paul Lawrie was among those on their way to Chicago to defend the Ryder Cup

Here we go: Paul Lawrie was among those on their way to Chicago to defend the Ryder Cup

Many of the players, such as Luke
Donald, already live in America, and a large number of the team, such as
Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, have been in Atlanta competing for the
bumper $10million bonus on offer at the FedEx Cup – won by Brandt
Snedeker on Sunday.

For those players who were in London on Monday, they arrived in marked Ryder Cup cars, posed for photographs with the coveted trophy before they board the plane to the States.

There won’t be much time for the
European players, who are travelling with the Ryder Cup trophy, to
acclimatise to a new time zone and country, as they arrive late on
Monday and begin their first practice on Tuesday at Medinah.

The week is jam-packed from there
too. After another practice session on Wednesday, the players will
attend the gala dinner, where their wives will have their moment in the
spotlight.

On Thursday the players will be at
the opening ceremony for this year’s competition where the draw for the
first series of foursomes matches is announced.

If they’ve caught their breath in
time, the first matches will be teeing off at 7.20am local time on
Friday morning. Luckily for us viewers in the UK, they’ll be starting at
the more sociable 1.20pm.

Unconventional baggage: Olazabal was pushing the trolley with his bag and the trophy in London

Unconventional baggage: Olazabal was pushing the trolley with his bag and the trophy in London

The road to Medinah: Jimenez stepped out of the car ready to take on the USA on Friday

The road to Medinah: Jimenez stepped out of the car ready to take on the USA on Friday

Mine all mine: Nicolas Colsaerts joined Lawrie, Olazabal and Jiminez

Mine all mine: Nicolas Colsaerts joined Lawrie, Olazabal and Jiminez

One of the European team members who should be well adapted to his surroundings is Luke Donald.

The former world No 1 lives in
Chicago, and has been spending his days off at Medinah (which is a 35
minute drive from his home in the suburb of Northfield) to get his eye
in.

Olazabal, Donald and Co will be hoping to hold on to the trophy they won two years ago at Celtic Manor.

In a truly historic Ryder Cup, Europe
took the win 14 to 13 as Graeme McDowell holed the final putt in
Newport to clinch it in the final of the 12 singles matches.

The putt, which also crowned a
remarkable career for the then captain Colin Montgomerie, handed the
Northern Irishman a win over Hunter Mahan as the home crowd exploded into raptures.

But this time they will travel to Chicago with the proposition of beating Davis Love III's big-hitting outfit in their own back yard.

No mean feat. Especially with the final competition before the tournament's beginning on Friday being snatched from under European noses by Snedeker, whose impeccable short game could cause more problems for Olazabal's men over the weekend.

The USA's team, including the likes of Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson, will also be in Chicago on Monday as they prepare to launch their bid to usurp the holders of the trophy.

Fun and games: Jiminez, Olazabal and Darren Clarke (right) looked relaxed before boarding their flight

Fun and games: Jiminez, Olazabal and Darren Clarke (right) looked relaxed before boarding their flight

Don't let it go! Jiminez seemed keen to hold on to the trophy the Europeans won two years ago at Celtic Manor

Don't let it go! Jiminez seemed keen to hold on to the trophy the Europeans won two years ago at Celtic Manor

Close inspection: Colsaerts examined the trophy closely... hopefully not for the last time

Close inspection: Colsaerts examined the trophy closely… hopefully not for the last time