Tenacious McGinley has pep in his step despite old knee problems
THE HUNGER still stirs deeply in his gut, even as the grey hairs become ever more prominent. Paul McGinley, at 45, retains the competitive instinct that made him a go-to man on Ryder Cup teams and, despite an arthritic knee that needs a reduced tour schedule these days, the Dubliner yesterday crafted shots over the Dunluce links that reminded us the old wizardry hasn’t gone away.
If anything, McGinley has bounced back to confirm his terrier-like qualities. After two average seasons on tour, where he was forced to rely on his career money list rankings to keep a card, McGinley has returned with a vengeance. His total of €286,917 from eight appearances this season already almost matches the combined prize money from 2010 and ’11 in a total of 27 tournaments. Clearly, less is more.
A third-place finish in the BMW International Open in Cologne last week represented McGinley’s best finish since a runner-up finish in the KLM Dutch Open in 2008.
“I walked away with a big positive, with a big smile on my face,” conceded McGinley, adding: “And my smile’s got even bigger since I came here and saw the crowds and the golf course. It’s been a great, fun week so far and I hope I can play a bit better at the weekend and get right up there and get the crowds roaring. It’s great to play in front of crowds that are so big and so vociferous and pro-Irish.”
McGinley added a second-round 70 to his opening 69 to sit on 139, five-under-par, at the mid-point of the Irish Open.
Nobody had to tell him it could have been even better: after a fast start that featured an eagle and two birdies in his opening four holes, McGinley hit a wall coming in, bogeying the seventh – the toughest-ranked hole on the course – and, then, the par-five ninth, his closing hole.
“I absolutely buttoned the second shot,” said McGinley of his approach, which pitched two yards short of the green and rolled back down into the valley. His first putt ran up the hill, took a peek the pin, and then retreated back down. His next putt went 12 feet past the pin. The next missed. It all added up to a bogey six.
All in all, there was a satisfaction with his game and that he had continued the momentum of three top-10s in his last four appearances. “There are glimpses of (the game) being as good as its ever been, better than its ever been. It’s only in the last few months I’ve started to turn it around and it’s important I keep that momentum.
“ I’ve got to work hard and rest up too. That’s one thing I have to be careful with for the rest of the season, to make sure I give myself time and space. One of the reasons why I’ve played well this year is that I’ve cut down my schedule and I’ve been a lot fresher when I’ve played.”
The knee, which has required repeated visits to a surgeon’s scalpel, is, according to McGinley, “not 100 per cent, and it will never be 100 per cent. It’s badly swollen now and that’s always the case, after every round it’s always swollen. But I’m managing.
“That’s part of my maintenance, to keep doing the same things and maintain it. Even if I spend every hour in the gym it’s never going to be better. it’s a question of maintaining it, understanding this is one of the crosses I have to bear and get working around it. Not practising too much. Resting enough. Getting my schedule right.”
For now, he has done that well. The icing on the cake would be a strong weekend’s performance and to up the decibels from the galleries even more if that were possible.