Des Smyth revelling in hands-on role

European Ryder Cup vice-captain believes US will use underdog status to advantage

Des Smyth is still competing, still has his eyes on the ball in pursuit of titles. His travels this week take him to Germany for the Winston Golf Senior Open on the European Seniors Tour which, in its own way, will serve as a welcome distraction to his role next week when he will be Paul McGinley's right-hand man at the Ryder Cup.

In his second stint at a vice-captain in the cut-throat world of the Ryder Cup, having also served at The K Club in 2006, Smyth is prepared for what awaits. He knows the US captain Tom Watson of old and knows that he will use their unaccustomed status as underdogs to put fire into his team's bellies. "We're under no illusion (about the task), the Americans are a wounded team. They want to prove something . . . just not this time."

The tag of favouritism is one that, he feels, Europe must live and deal with. With Rory McIlroy as world number one in the team, it is only natural that such a tag has been attached.

‘Always underdog’

“I don’t know if you like (having) the tag. We have always been underdogs. I think the reason they were always favourites (in recent years) was because they had


Tiger Woods

on the team and his aura created this mystique which he has, that’s the reason why they got that favouritism tag. We were always delighted (to be underdogs), I know that.

“We have got Rory, you see. We have the number-one player in the world on our team, that’s the reason, part of, that we are favourites.”

Compared to his role in 2006, Smyth has been more hands on this time. Along with Sam Torrance, he was brought on board from an early stage by McGinley. "I have been more of a mentor to Paul than I was to Ian. Woosie had DJ Russell, a long-time friend and travelling companion on tour for many years, they had lots in common. I filled that role with Paul when he came on tour first, I was his mentor . . . he was always a very inquisitive guy, asking questions. I have my own opinion and I think he would like what he was hearing. I'm thrilled to be a vice-captain again. I never thought I would get in this position again."

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times