BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Jose Maria Olazabal will replace fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros as captain of the Europe team that takes on Asian in the Ryder Cup-style Royal Trophy golf tournament next month.
Five-time major champion Ballesteros, who led Europe to victory in the two previous Royal Trophies, decided he did not have time to recover for the Jan. 9-11 tournament after undergoing the latest in a series of brain surgeries on Dec. 2.
Tournament organizers said Ballesteros, 51, is making a “positive recovery” after the operation to implant a valve in his brain and repair a bone defect stemming from one of the procedures he has undergone since having a malignant brain tumor removed Oct. 24. Ballesteros was first admitted on Oct. 6 after fainting at Madrid’s international airport.
“I am truly honored to have been appointed by Seve to take such an important responsibility and I will do my best to deliver a win for my great friend and for Europe,” two-time major winner Olazabal said in a statement released Monday. “I plan to stay in contact with Seve throughout the process and to work with him as a partner, just like we did on the golf course for so many years in the Ryder Cup.”
The Asia team will be captained for the second consecutive year by former U.S. PGA Tour regular Naomichi Ozaki of Japan, who has already announced his lineup for the tournament, including South Koreans Charlie Wi and S.K. Ho; Prayad Marksaeng and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand; Japan’s Hideto Tanihara, Toru Taniguchi, and teenager Ryo Ishikawa; and Liang Wenchong of China.
The third edition of the Royal Trophy, sanctioned by the Asian, Japan and European tours, will be held at Bangkok’s Amata Spring Country Club. Europe won the first two Trophies in 2006 and 2007, while the 2008 competition was postponed in January due to a period of national mourning for the sister of the King of Thailand, who donated the trophy.