Olazabal still loves being captain as Ryder Cup hero tees it up at Royal Trophy
10:20 GMT, 14 December 2012
Jose Maria Olazabal is captain of Europe again this week, and it feels good.
The mention of September's Miracle of Medinah still brings a beaming smile to the face of the great Spaniard, and why not
Not many men can say they inspired arguably the most impossible sporting comeback of all time.
Head to head: Jose Maria Olazabal (right) and Asia captain Joe Ozaki were all smiles ahead of the event
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Olazabal is once more in charge of his continent for the sixth edition of the Royal Trophy in Brunei, where he and fellow Ryder Cup heroes Nicolas Colsaerts and Francesco Molinari are taking on the might of Asia, including Japanese superstar Ryo Ishikawa, over three days of matchplay amid the tropical rainforest at the Empire Hotel and Country Club.
Olazabal has had time to reflect on Medinah since Europe's scarcely believable comeback and, speaking to Sportsmail Online in Brunei, sums up the experience as 'an extraordinary moment. Unforgettable. Unique.'
Victory in the Windy City whipped up a whirlwind of publicity for Olazabal and even led to an audience with the King of Spain.
What with getting his feel back for playing ahead of this tournament with trips to the Far East, he has only recently been able to snatch moments of peace to let it all sink in.
'It's true that for a few weeks after it was over I didn't have the chance to reflect on what happened that week. I'm really looking forward to this winter, having more time on my own with a DVD and a nice glass of wine, and just enjoying it.
Nice work if you can get it: European skipper Olazabal lines up a putt as Miguel Angel Jimenez looks on
'Last week I had enough time to go shooting with my father. We go for partridge, quail, duck. We had a couple of nice days. It's nice to go with the dogs, just on your own, that's the beauty of it. You feel like you're the only man in the world. That sense of peace… that's what I really look forward to.'
And did he bring any dinner home for the family
'Yes, both of us did!' he laughs.
Here in Brunei, things are a little different to those incredible few days in Chicago: less hair-pulling, gut-wrenching and tear-shedding, more back-slapping, belly-laughing and mickey-taking.
During the opening ceremony we were even treated to a slapstick comedy sketch from Laurel and Hardy, otherwise known as Olazabal and Joe Osaki, the Asian captain.
When Osaki rubbed Olazabal's nose in the fact he had triumphed the last time the pair led their continents in this format, the Spaniard ran from his seat across the stage to deliver a few playful whacks to his friend's head.
Thankfully, no golfers were harmed in the making of this gag.
Two of his five a day: Our man Chris got a bit fruity with the fans in Brunei
'Obviously it's not the same intensity as the Ryder Cup, it's a more relaxed atmosphere,' says Olazabal.
'But don't get me wrong, things are going to get serious. We're facing a serious challenge. The Asian team is strong. We're going to have to be on our toes.'
Olazabal's tears for his great friend Seve Ballesteros, who devised the Royal Trophy in 2006, regularly punctuated the Ryder Cup and gave viewers an insight into both the man's genuinely warm nature and his appreciation for life away from the golf course.
Ollie is emotional, and he doesn't care who knows it. He is no relentless golfing machine, focused purely on victory.
'You have to be hard in competition when you're on the course. But outside we cannot forget that this is a game. I've known Joe for many years, since the late 80s playing in Japan. You cannot forget that we're all human beings.
'There are other things in the world more important than what we do today here and you have to be able to separate those things. You have to have the right, friendly atmosphere off the golf course. On the golf course we shake hands on the first tee but that's it. We're going to try to beat each other.'
Glorious: The sun was shining on day one of the Royal Trophy in Brunei
Unlike at Medinah, Olazabal will be teeing it up as well as leading his team as a player-captain.
On Friday he partnered compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez in the foursomes against YE Yang and KT Kim.
The mere mention of Jimenez brings a smile to Olazabal's face, although he jokes that the 'old boys' might need to use a buggy or play off the forward tees to compete with the whippersnappers.
Alongside Jimenez and the Ryder Cup stars, Henrik Stenson, Edoardo Molinari, Marcel Siem and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano complete the European team.
Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion, admits he is not as sharp as he once was but now that the Ryder Cup is behind him, he has his sights firmly set on finding form on the course again.
'My game is on and off,' he says. 'I can play a bunch of great holes but all of a sudden I can hit that crooked shot that spoils everything. My goal now that the Ryder Cup is over is to concentrate on my game. I've always worked hard but (I need) to have my frame of mind on practicing and playing.'
Olazabal speaks glowingly of Tom Watson, who was confirmed as United States captain for Gleneagles in 2014.
But is he not tempted to give the captaincy another shot, on home soil The answer is a categorical no.
'The Ryder Cup is over, for sure. If Ivan Ballesteros (Seve's nephew and Royal Trophy organiser) asks me to captain again, I might do it. Most probably I would do it. For Seve, for Ivan, for the family. But the Ryder Cup – that's over.'
It may be over, but it will never be forgotten. Just ask the Princess of Sharjah – her highness herself has made the journey here to speak with Olazabal.
Like his late, great friend, Olly too is now golfing royalty.