McGinley quite rightly gets the Ryder Cup nod!

mcginley1

Paul McGinley made history this week when he was appointed the first ever Irish Captain of the European Ryder Cup Team. Irish golfers have had an amazing record as part of the Ryder Cup teams, from Eamonn D’Arcy beating Ben Crenshaw in 1987 at Muirfield; Christy O’Connor’s 2-iron in 1989 at the Belfy vs Couples; Phil Walton’s great victory again Jay Haas to bring the Cup home in 1995; Paul McGinley’s putt in 2002 at the Belfry to win the Cup; Harrington defeating Tiger & Phil alongside Monty in 2004 and beating Tiger again with McGinners the next day at Oaklands Hills; Darren Clarke’s amazing performances at The K Club in 2006………..the list just goes on and on!

It has taken a long time in coming to finally see an Irish golfer as Ryder Cup Captain after such a significant contribution to the competition over the years. We could potentially see another 2 Irish golfers as Ryder Cup captain soon too with Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington definitely in the running for future captaincy roles, although the fact that Darren was strongly considered this time around maybe counting against him for subsequent Ryder Cups.

Paul McGinley is a true gent of the game, very similar to his more illustrious colleague, Tom Watson, of Team USA. His behaviour during the run-up to the announcement of Team Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain was a credit to him, staying in the background and just letting things unfold while others very much let themselves down, not wanting to name any names of course…………Monty does spring to mind though! McGinley has served as Assistant Captain twice so his Ryder Cup pedigree is without question, both teams winning, in 2010 and quite miraculously in 2012, and, of course, he held the winning putt in 2002 at the Belfry along with delivering significant contributions in 2004 at Oaklands Hills (the highlight probably being his 4&3 victory over Davis Love III & Tiger Woods while in tandem with fellow Irishman, Padraig Harrington) and of course who can forget his amazing show of sportsmanship to JJ Henry in conceding his putt for a half on the 18th green at The K Club even though victory for Europe had been secured. His unbeaten record in Ryder Cups, as player and Assistant Captain so far, will definitely be put to the test when Tom Watson returns to Scotland, his second golfing home, in 2014 at Gleneagles. His captaincy credentials were already copper-fastened of course, performing with much credit in the Seve (Vivendi) Trophy in 2009 & 2011.

mcginley5

The main questions raised in the build-up to the European Team Captain announcement this week was would Paul be the big enough name needed to stand up to Watson in the captaincy stakes, and also maybe whether he would be able to command the respect of 12 of the best golfers in the world for a week. His grit and determination shown as a player in Ryder Cups would answer a resounding yes to the first question and the fantastic support shown for him by players such as World No.1 Rory McIlroy and the name called “Mr Ryder Cup” in certain quarters, Ian Poulter, among others definitely points to the other issue not being an issue at all.

mcginley3

Paul McGinley is quite simply a Ryder Cup legend, having won 3 out of 3 as a player and 2 out of 2 as an Assistant Captain. He has served his Ryder Cup apprenticeship by captaining GB&I in the Vivendi Seve Trohpy twice so the next logical step and much deserved appointment was to make him Captain of Team Europe for the matches at Gleneagles, Scotland, in September 2014. I’m already looking forward to September, those of you who read my blog piece on Tom Watson’s captaincy will already know this!  How about an all-Irish backroom team of McGinley, Harrington & Clarke facing up to Watson, Palmer & Nicklaus in 20 months’ time?!!? The proverbial golfing mouth waters!!

mcginley paddy darrenmcginley2

Tom Watson takes the Call to Captain Team USA

I have said it a few times that when I grow up I want to be like Tom Watson, and especially play half as well as he does when I’m in my 60s. That. at the moment, is neither here nor there!

A true gentleman of the game, Tom Watson, will resume Ryder Cup Captaincy duty 21 years on from the Belfry in 1993 when he last held the mantle of US Team Captain. This was also the last time America won on European soil so maybe the PGA of America are hoping with Watson’s appointment it may well help them right that statistic at Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2014.

tom watson

This is a fairly unusual departure from PGA of America as Tom will become the first Captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1987 to captain Team USA twice. Some see this as a desperate attempt from the US Ryder Cup officials to get the Ryder Cup back while others see it as an inspired choice, bringing one of the game’s true greats back into the Ryder Cup fold. The final result in Gleneagles of course will be the only proof as to whether their choice was the correct one or not. I have no doubt Watson will be a fantastic captain for the American team, in terms of the humility with which he operates and how he will uphold the traditions of the game of golf, but he will, of course, be ultimately judged on the whether he takes the Ryder Cup back with him on the flight leaving Scotland on Monday 29th September 2014. It seems when you are a losing Captain you are immediately branded a bad Captain while a winning Captain is a great Captain, very fine margins especially when 1 point has separated the teams on numerous occasions over the past 20 years but that is how Ryder Cup captains are so often judged.

tom watson2

Some critics may point to Watson’s age, 63 now and 65 by the time the 2014 Ryder Cup is played, as being a drawback based on his supposed lack of connection with the current Tour Players but Tom is very active on tour still and could, and probably should, have won the 2010 Open Championship had it not be for a cruel bounce with his approach shot to the 72nd Green that Sunday afternoon, subsequent bogey and play-off to Stewart Cink. Others point to his poor relationship with Tiger Woods (he just can’t stay out of the headlines even when the stories are not about him!) but Watson was quick to pour cold water on the rumours of a rift between them stating Tiger would be his first choice as a Wild Card should be not make the team. Having Woods in the team hasn’t exactly been great for the US, their only victory with him as part of Team USA being in 1999 at Brookline (his missed their 2008 win due to injury) so I don’t think the Europeans would mind if he made the team or was picked….got a little off topic there for a sentence or so!

Tom Watson is extremely well respected and is a good fit as Captain for the American team. I do not think the other candidates really fitted the bill – Fred Couples seems better suited to the more relaxed role of US President’s Cup Captain; Larry Nelson should have been made Captain long before this so really his time had passed and he is not as active anymore on any Tour; David Toms probably has at least 1 more Ryder Cup in him so who’s left?? Bring back Zinger (would be a popular Captain again) or go for somebody with less Ryder Cup experience? The fact is most recent US Ryder Cup teams have a core of the experienced regulars – Tiger, Phil, Jim Furyk and maybe Steve Stricker but their team changes so much from one Match to another with the 2 year gap that a lot of rookies only end up playing 1 Ryder Cup hence there are not that many experienced captaincy candidates when it comes down to it. I think Bubba, Webb and Keegan may be around for a while yet but players like JJ Henry, Vaughn Taylor, Boo Weekley, Anthony Kim and Kenny Perry are examples of guys who had decent Ryder Cup debuts and haven’t played much, or at all, since. When you look at some of the European Ryder Cup Captain possibles it is a much more experienced bunch – Clarke, McGinley, Monty (again?), Bjorn, Lawrie (the Scottish link or maybe too soon?) and even Jimenez (surely a Captain for the future, France 2018?).tom watson3

I think it will be a fantastic Ryder Cup in Scotland, some say it is Tom Watson’s spiritual golfing home although some folk at Ballybunion Golf Club may disagree, and whoever Europe pick as Captain they will have it all to do to beat Team USA with the 5-time Open Champion at the helm. It is a good appointment whatever happens, Tom Watson will ensure his teams plays with heart and passion and also with the integrity that he has played the game for well into his 60s and, at times, to a much better standard than some of his younger counterparts even to this day. It will be interesting who he will pick as his Assistant Captains as he obviously know the elder statesmen on Tour better, will he picking up to phone to Jack & Arnie for one magnificent last hurrah at the top of the golfing world?? Now that would be something!

tom jack arnie

Mental note, must check flights and hotel accommodation for September 2014 around Gleneagles!!!