Fitting reward for ultimate team player McGinley
RYDER CUP 2014:For years, the biographical note under Paul McGinley’s entry in the European Tour’s media guide carried the blithely damned-with-faint-praise line that he would “henceforth be remembered as the man who holed the winning putt in the 34th Ryder Cup matches”.
That 10-footer on the 18th green at The Belfry in 2002 is the long and short of what golf followers worldwide know of Mick McGinley’s son but now they will get the chance to become far better acquainted. How he is henceforth to be remembered will come down to one week at the end of September next year.
Ultimately, the fact he only ever won four tournaments didn’t matter and neither did any worries the European Tour might have had that he didn’t have sufficient stature to match US captain Tom Watson. It was a golf decision based on universal support from Europe’s best players and in deference to McGinley’s long-served apprenticeship for the role.
A dutiful team man in an individual world, McGinley has built a career on the back of his knack for team golf. As the first Irish captain of a Ryder Cup team, it was fitting then that he spent part of last night in Abu Dhabi explaining to the world that it was the GAA that set him on the road to the stage he was sitting on.
“Gaelic football is where I started. If you look at my career, it’s quite modest compared to the ex-captains that we’ve had in Ryder Cups, and that’s what’s very humbling for me to be in this position. I obviously don’t match the record that they have in terms of what they have achieved in major championships and what not.
“But what I did do in my career was I always performed extremely highly when I did play as part of a team. I don’t know why. I wish I could have done the same as an individual. But I certainly went to another level when I played in team golf.
“I think – and some psychologists might explain it this way – it goes back to my Gaelic football days, being part of the team, being in the dressing room . . . and everyone pulling the same way.
“My heart ticks a bit faster and my adrenaline goes more and I just love the environment of being in a team. In Ryder Cup situations I love the team meetings, I love everything that goes with it . . . .”
Having played on three winning Ryder Cup teams, McGinley first got the sniff of a possible route to the captaincy in the 2009 Seve Trophy.
Irony of ironies, it was Colin Montgomerie who put him forward for the role of captaining the GBI side that week in Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche.
McGinley led what was on paper a weaker team than the Continental Europe one captained by Thomas Bjorn to a 16½-11½ victory.
“I didn’t know (a) if I was going to be any good and (b) if I was going to enjoy it. I was very fortunate. I inherited a young fellow called Rory McIlroy on my team, along with Graeme (McDowell), who were the backbone of my team. Then I had a lot of other players by world ranking that were not as high as what the boys were. So they were the real fulcrum on my team. I came away from that week having an absolute blast, as much as I did when I played.
“And it obviously went very well for me, too. So that was the first time the seed was set. I came away thinking maybe I am good at this and have an aptitude for captaining and organising a team. That’s when the first seeds of potential captaincy in Ryder Cup came to mind.”
Pádraig Harrington pointed last night to Bernhard Langer as McGinley’s touchstone when it comes to style of leadership next September.
“He will be so organised,” Harrington said. “That’s what his greatest strength is. Langer is Paul’s absolute hero when it comes to the Ryder Cup. Monty spoke to all the past captains and gathered enough information together to know what way he was going to go. Paul will do the same but with an extra emphasis on Langer’s captaincy.”
At some point today the European Tour will quietly change his profile page on their website. The Belfry in 2002 is what he did in his first Ryder Cup life. What he does in his second will define him.
McIlroy tweets his approval
World number one Rory McIlroy predictably welcomed the Paul McGinley’s appointment.
He wrote on Twitter: “Common sense prevailed in the end.... Paul McGinley 2014 European Ryder Cup captain!!! Couldn’t be happier for him... Roll on Gleneagles.”
Eight-time Major winner Tom Watson who skippers the US in 2014 said: “Paul is an outstanding representative of European golf. I look forward to sharing the stage with him as we make our journey to Scotland.”