Olazabal Picks Out Hero Cup Trio Who Could Be Future Ryder Cup Stars

Former Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal says he likes the look of three Hero Cup eyecatchers who could make Luke Donald's team

Jose Maria Olazabal at the Hero Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Former Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal picked out three European young guns he thought could go on to have a big future in the competition after watching them at the Hero Cup.

Continental Europe are taking on Great Britain & Ireland in Abu Dhabi with Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald watching on closely to get as many pointers as he can for his team to take on America later this year.

Donald knows all about captains Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, but there’s a host of younger players on both sides who could impress this week.

And with Donald having six captain’s picks this time around for the Ryder Cup, there’s plenty of places available for those who show flashes of taking to the format.

Especially with the likes of stalwarts Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia out of consideration after joining LIV Golf, there’s set to be a new wave of younger players battling the United States at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome.

And Ryder Cup legend Olazabal, who formed an incredible partnership with Seve Ballesteros as a player and masterminded the Miracle of Medinah as a captain, says a few players have caught his eye.

The Spaniard had praise for the swings of Sepp Straka, Ewen Ferguson and Nicolai Hojgaard, who was a late replacement in the Hero Cup for his brother Rasmus.

“Sepp Straka, I followed him for a few holes and I liked how steady he is, and I liked his swing also, I think that under pressure that type of swing should hold up really well,” Olazabal told Sky Sports when asked about who had impressed him so far.

“Ewen Ferguson I like, maybe he’s not the longest of hitters but if his putting is good then he could do well, but there’s a bunch of them that have the potential to be top, top players.

“Nicolai I know has been changing his swing a little bit, up to last year he was drawing the ball off the tee but this week from what I saw he’s favouring a little fade, and if he keeps that ball in play off the tee then the rest of his game is extremely sharp.

“He hits it very, very long in that regard, and if he can improve in that area off the tee then I think we’ll have a great player in the future.”


Europe 3-2 GB&I

Tommy Fleetwood & Shane Lowry lost to Thomas Pieters & Alexander Noren 1 down

Tyrrell Hatton & Jordan Smith lost to Thomas Detry & Antoine Rozner 2 down

Callum Shinkwin & Matt Wallace halved with Victor Perez & Guido Migliozzi

Ewen Ferguson & Richard Mansell halved with Francesco Molinari & Nicolai Hojgaard

Seamus Power & Robert MacIntyre bt Sepp Straka & Adrian Meronk 4&3

Jose Maria Olazabal talks to Thomas Pieters at the Hero Cup

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What was also noticeable at Abu Dhabi Golf Club was the way both sets of players kept to their teams and seemed really up for the battle and determined to win.

None more so than Richard Mansell, who was almost giving it the Ian Poulters with a few fist pumps after making some crucial putts as he played alongside Ferguson to half with Molinari and Hojgaard.

Thomas Pieters, who set a rookie points record when he won four in his Ryder Cup debut in 2016, showed he can really play in his format by helping an off-form Alex Noren take down Fleetwood and Shane Lowry.

Seamus Power and Robert MacIntyre were the partnership of the opening day as they produced a birdie fest to beat Straka and Adrian Meronk 4&3.

Paul Higham

Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website.  Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.