Tuesday 17 October 2017

Paul Kimmage meets Paul McGinley: Golfer, pundit, businessman, messiah

'Leading people is about getting into their skin,' insists former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley

Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Paul Kimmage

Paul Kimmage

He was playing golf with his father in Dunfanaghy when he took the call. It was two days before the Irish Open and Paul McGinley was fine-tuning his game on the links where he had first learned to play.

"Are you not in Portstewart?" I asked.

"No, Donegal."

"When are you going?"

Paul McGinley enjoying the joys of triumph in the Ryder Cup as captain in 2014. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Paul McGinley enjoying the joys of triumph in the Ryder Cup as captain in 2014. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

"Tomorrow."

"Do you fancy dinner?"

"Thursday is good."

"Where?"

"I'll send you a text."

. . . And he did.

Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and McGinley with the Seve Trophy at Druids Glen in 2002. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and McGinley with the Seve Trophy at Druids Glen in 2002. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

The Bushmills Inn at 7pm. Come to the fireplace.

He was nursing a pint of Guinness when I arrived and seemed visibly agitated by the bogey, bogey finish to a frustrating opening round of 76. But there was some other stuff playing on his mind. "You know the last time I sat here drinking one of these was with Darren," he said.

Then a waiter brought two menus but I'd already gone off the food.

'You f*cking idiot,' I thought. 'You should have brought your recorder!'

On Monday, he agreed to meet me again at The Grange in Dublin. Almost three years had passed since our last interview on the eve of the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, when many were still questioning his pedigree and ability to lead. I pulled out the interview and read him an excerpt . . .

"What if I was to suggest that this Ryder Cup is your Major?"

Paul McGinley discusses tactics with Rory McIlroy during practiceahead of The 2016 Ryder Cup Matches at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Paul McGinley discusses tactics with Rory McIlroy during practiceahead of The 2016 Ryder Cup Matches at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"Yeah."

"Your place in history."

"Yeah."

"Are you conscious of that?"

"Yeah."

. . . then reached into my bag for a small hand-held mirror.

Team Ireland golf captain Paul McGinley during a practice round ahead of the Men's Strokeplay competition at the Olympic Golf Course, Barra de Tijuca, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Team Ireland golf captain Paul McGinley during a practice round ahead of the Men's Strokeplay competition at the Olympic Golf Course, Barra de Tijuca, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"Now, what do you see?"

1 The Messiah

Brian: "I am not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!"

Woman: "Only the true Messiah denies His divinity."

Brian: "What! Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!"

The horde: "He is! He is the Messiah!"

Monty Python's 'Life of Brian'

 

Paul Kimmage: Okay, I'd like you to look into that mirror.

Paul McGinley: (Laughs)

PK: What do you see?

PMcG: (Long pause)

PK: I ask because, when we were sitting by the fireplace in Bushmills last week I saw different people: a golfer frustrated with his golf; a businessman unsure of his business; a man at a crossroads.

PMcG: Yeah, that's kind of where I am. I've a lot of balls in the air at the moment: I'm a board member now on the (European) Tour; I'm part of the (broadcast) team at Sky; I've a golf design business which does well, an academy which does well and a couple of other business opportunities in the pipeline. But there's no clear path in my mind. I'm still wrestling with that, and where golf fits into that.

PK: Wrestling is an interesting word.

PMcG: Yeah, because I still feel I have some unfinished business as a golfer. I still love to play: give me two or three hours when I'm home and I'm straight up to Queenwood to hit balls, or up to Sunningdale to play a money-match with the members. The problem is finding time. Golf requires a lot of focus, a lot of practice and a lot of head space. I'd love to focus solely on that but my income doesn't come from playing golf, it comes from all of the other things, so that's why I say wrestling.

PK: You turned 50 in December?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: An interesting milestone.

PMcG: Yeah, a lot of players get to 45 and can't wait to play seniors golf. There are very few guys who can compete (on the main Tour) at that age. Miguel (Angel Jimenez) is an exception but even Monty (Colin Montgomerie) was done at 45, and he was the best player we've had in Europe in the last decade-and-a-half.

PK: So what makes you think you have unfinished business?

PMcG: It's just ego I suppose - the adrenaline of playing and being successful. And I feel better equipped now because of the Ryder Cup captaincy and stuff: it has made me look at myself and at the game in a completely different way. It's my first year on the Seniors Tour and I haven't played much but you can't half do it. So I'll have to make a decision soon.

PK: We're at the Grange, one of Dublin's most prestigious golf clubs, and the first thing you see driving into the car park is a reminder that it's the home of Paul McGinley, the 2014 Ryder Cup Captain.

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: A lot of new opportunities have come from that?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: You were invited to talk to the League Managers Association at a dinner in London in April 2015. This is a quote from a piece by Matt Dickinson in The Times: "You come cross a few impressive leaders in this job, but I have not seen many wow an audience like the Irishman did at a recent dinner in London when he took to the stage, with Roy Hodgson, to discuss management techniques. McGinley was so smart, analytical and inspiring that some guests left asking if he would take over the England football team. They were not joking."

PMcG: (Laughs) Jaysus!

PK: Quite a tribute.

PMcG: I felt a bit uncomfortable with that.

PK: Because?

PMcG: Because of what came out afterwards.

PK: You'll have to explain that.

PMcG: I've met Roy Hodgson a couple of times and he's a really nice man. He's also a really bright man - I think he speaks about five languages - and a very successful coach. Dave Jones (a Sky Sports presenter) was the moderator and I was on stage with Roy. It was a few months after the Ryder Cup and it was still fresh in my mind: the planning and the preparation and the data and the way we had used it. Roy didn't have all that. Roy is old-school and there was a contrast and a perception that: "Oh, McGinley knows what he's doing and Hodgson doesn't." And I was uncomfortable with that. It wasn't apples (being compared) with apples. They are two different sports.

PK: Perception is interesting, isn't it?

PMcG: Yeah, it is, and I've been getting the benefit. The perception is that I revolutionised the Ryder Cup captaincy but I didn't. I evolved it. There wasn't one thing I did that we hadn't done at a different level before.

PK: You say that but I'm going to quote something Billy Foster (Lee Westwood's caddie) said in the locker room on the night before the singles matches: "All the players had left, there were three or four of us with Paul. I put my hand on his shoulder and said, 'I've done 12 of these now and whatever happens tomorrow won't change what I'm about to say. You have been the best captain I've seen. Before this year it was Bernhard Langer in 2004 but you are the best. By a country mile. Doing bloody handstands, mate'."

PMcG: Yeah, I really appreciated that. Listen, I'm not downplaying what I did but a lot of it was instinctive.

PK: You invested two years of your life in it. Pádraig Harrington said that he didn't think any captain in history had put as much into it as you did. What about the elation of winning?

PMcG: I wasn't elated. There was a sense of achievement, a deep-level sense of achievement, but it wasn't elation. When I holed the winning putt at the Belfry I felt elated - it was like Champagne coming out of a bottle. That wasn't how I felt at Gleneagles.

PK: What about the moment when you closed your bedroom door? 'That's it. It's over. It's done.'

PMcG: I have no recollection of sitting down and thinking, 'Jeez! That was fantastic.' If you know Ali (his wife), that's not going to happen in our house; I'm not going to be told how great I am or how well we've done (laughs). It's 'Move on, the kids have to get to school today.' We were straight back into the throes of normal life.

PK: Except it's not normal like before: you are made an 'Executive Fellow' by the London Business School; you're giving lectures on leadership with Alex Ferguson; you become a guru . . .

PMcG: (laughs)

PK: . . . the Deepak Chopra of golf.

PMcG: Yeah, and that was taking it too far. We had a great team. They were on form. We were playing at home on a golf course that was familiar. So I had a lot of odds in my favour but that brought some pressure and expectation that I had to deal with. And sometimes you can do all the right things and it just won't go for you. But thankfully it did.

PK: What if it didn't? What if you had lost? What difference has winning made in terms of everything that has happened since?

PMcG: Well, I had done two years at Sky before the captaincy so I'd like to think that would have continued. My business relationships were good and I'd like to think they would have continued. I think how I am perceived would have been different. And that's one of the things that really grates on me - that you are judged by achievements.

PK: Go on.

PMcG: Colin Montgomerie never won a Major but for me - outside of Tiger - he was the most outstanding player of my era. He won nine Order of Merits - an incredible achievement - and dominated in Europe almost every time he played, but the stick they keep beating him with is: "You've never won a Major." That's unfair. And that's perception: win and you're a great fella, lose and you're not so good. Win and you've credibility, you're an expert; lose and nobody wants to know. And I've a problem with that.

PK: Because . . .

PMcG: Well, in that case Alex Ferguson would never have been a manager. Or Jose Mourinho. And that was the thing that really got to me in the debate about the captaincy: I had won two Seve Trophies (the former biennial team event between Great Britain and Ireland and Continental Europe) when we were 10/1 against on each occasion. I had gone up against a European team laden with Ryder Cup players - we didn't have any - and won both times. So I had an incredibly strong CV in terms of what I had done in leadership but because it was easy to dismiss my career as a player, I almost didn't get the job!

PK: Sure.

PMcG: If you want to be really analytical about leaders in sport, tell me a great, great, great player who has made a great coach?

PK: Johan Cruyff.

PMcG: Was he a great manager?

PK: Pep Guardiola was singing his praises in Belfast the other night.

PMcG: Yeah, but was his CV up there with Alex Ferguson? Look at Ferguson - not a superstar player. Mourinho - not a superstar player. Arsene Wenger - not a superstar player. Now look at the Ryder Cup, and put the golfing CVs of the captains we've had for the last 20 years on the table - the guy with the best CV is perceived as the guy that didn't work.

PK: (Nick) Faldo.

PMcG: So here's the question: Why is that? My theory is that it's empathy, human emotion. Leading people is about getting into their skin, getting into their head, reading them, understanding them. The stats might say they are driving the ball great but what's in their heart? I was a three-time Ryder Cup player and was (ranked) 6-to-12 on each team, that meant I was sat on the bench for as many times as I played. So I had empathy for the guys who were 6-to-12 on the team; I had empathy for Stephen Gallacher; I had empathy for Victor Dubuisson; I had empathy for those guys because I was that soldier.

PK: You knew how that felt?

PMcG: Yeah. The other side of the coin was Rory McIlroy; I did not have empathy for Rory McIlroy. I was never a superstar. I never played five games out of five and was the number one player on the team. And this was one of the main reasons I sought out Alex Ferguson.

PK: 'How do I deal with a superstar?'

PMcG: Yeah, how do you get the best out of Ronaldo and David Beckham? How do you play them? What do you do with them? How do you ignite them? These were the conversations I was having with Alex Ferguson. It wasn't fluff. And thankfully it went really well.

 

2 My friend the enemy

"It wasn't for me to tell Darren he can't stand."

"But there must have been a part of you that felt betrayed?"

"You're saying that."

"It would only be natural?"

"I'm not disagreeing with you."

The Sunday Independent, September 2014

 

PK: So you become a winning Ryder Cup captain and two years later Darren Clarke, the friend who tried to deny you that opportunity, becomes a losing Ryder Cup captain. How difficult was that for you sitting in the commentary box that week?

PMcG: My most difficult week working for Sky.

PK: Was there any part of you that thought: 'I can't do this. I can't be objective. I'll have to cry off.'

PMcG: No. I owed it to Sky.

PK: Were you honest?

PMcG: I never said anything I didn't believe.

PK: (laughs) You'll have to give me a moment to work out the nuance in there.

PMcG: Let me put it to you this way: I asked a very wise man for some advice once on a different thing I was dealing with. "This is a no-win situation here," I said. "What do you think my position should be?" He looked at me and said: "Do you know the difference between a clever man and a wise man? The clever man has all the answers. The wise man ensures the questions are never asked."

PK: (Laughs)

PMcG: I thought it was brilliant, but you've asked me the question so . . . Yes, I did have a falling-out with Darren, and our relationship is broken and won't ever be the same, but I'm not hard enough to kick him into touch for the rest of his life. I had a lot of empathy for him that week. He did not find it (the captaincy) as easy as I found it. It's not something that comes naturally to him and he had a lot of challenges on his plate. He was playing away from home. He had six rookies on the team. He was following someone who was perceived as being very successful. I remember looking at him and thinking: 'What would I do?'

PK: And?

PMcG: The difficulty when you're a pundit is that you don't have all the information. On paper you might have what looks like a good partnership between two guys on form but you don't know. One of them might be rowing with his wife or in a financial hole business-wise. You don't really know what's going on unless you are in the middle of it.

PK: Good point.

PMcG: It's one of the bridges I try to cross when I'm out and about at tournaments: I talk to the caddies, I talk to the players, I find out what's going on. I won't break any confidences but it will inform and shape what I say. I missed the cut at the Irish Open last week and was disappointed I didn't compete but I walked away with a couple of nuggets of information that I can use at the British Open.

PK: Care to share any?

PMcG: (smiles) No, I'm keeping them for Sky.

PK: Fair enough.

PMcG: The other (benefit) was that it refreshed how it feels to be a golfer, standing on the first tee.

PK: Go back to Darren. You said last week, when we were sitting by the fireplace at the Bushmills Inn, that the last time you had been there was with him?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: I got a sense of regret.

PMcG: Yeah, it is a regret. And I'm sure it's a regret for Darren. We all make mistakes in life and do things to people we wish we hadn't done. He sent me a letter and apologised and I accepted his apology. It hurt but we move on. If I left here now and he was standing outside would I stop and have a chat? Absolutely. Will the relationship ever be the same? Probably not.

PK: The Open returns to Birkdale next week and you'll be analysing it for Sky. You didn't play there last time when Pádraig won in '08, but you were with him a year before when he won at Carnoustie?

PMcG: Yeah, I was meant to go to Portugal that night - Ali was there with the kids - and I remember calling her from the car park after the carnage on 18 (before the play-off) and saying: "I've got to stay and watch Pádraig here. He's going to win."

PK: You were that sure?

PMcG: Well, he had got a second bite at the cherry and he's such a great competitor that I couldn't see him being beaten. And I needed to be there. So I flew out to Portugal the next morning.

PK: Where were you in '08?

PMcG: I have no idea.

PK: You would surely have watched it?

PMcG: I remember looking at it the night before and thinking: 'There is only going to be one winner.' It's funny, for a lot of Pádraig's victories - and I don't know what it is - I could sense when he was going to win. Maybe that's from playing with him, or knowing him, but I can tell when he's tuned in. And when he's tuned in he doesn't let go.

PK: Where's he at now?

PMcG: It would be romantic to consider him as one of the favourites but I think in certain conditions he can win. I think fate is part of the narrative here.

PK: Fate or faith?

PMcG: Both. They're connected. He has a sense of destiny when in contention that allows him to win with little form . . . His win in Portugal last year - that shot he holed on 11 was just impossible, but ask him and he'll say it's all about the mind.

PK: Is he as fascinating to you as he is to us?

PMcG: Absolutely.

PK: (laughs)

PMcG: Fascinating is the word.

PK: He wins the Honda Classic out of nowhere, disappears and wins in Portugal out of nowhere.

PMcG: That's exactly my point. Generally, there's a trend to winning but Pádraig is unusual. Now he'll say, 'Oh, I had been playing great' and you'll find the stats won't back that up but he believes it.

PK: He certainly believes it.

PMcG: That's why he's great under pressure. He believes. He wills the ball in the hole. But I think fate is a big part of it - the ball drops this way or that way; it sits up in the rough or it sits down. And when he gets in a tight situation things happen for him. Look at Jon Rahm yesterday - he makes a dodgy start and holes a 30-footer for par on two. Then on four, when everybody is making birdies and closing the gap, he holes out from 150 yards for eagle! Now you can say, 'It was a great shot under pressure'. Sure. But to go in the hole!

PK: He got a great ruling under pressure.

PMcG: Well, that's another debate.

On the 6th green, replays showed Rahm marking his ball to the side on a short putt but when he returned the ball he placed it in front of the mark. The incident was reviewed by Andy McFee, the European Tour's chief referee, who ruled, after a discussion with Rahm on the 13th tee, that the Spaniard had made "a reasonable judgement" and had not incurred a penalty.

PK: What would Paul McGinley have said in the Sky Sports studio?

PMcG: I see a much bigger picture with this, and the bigger picture is that the leadership in the game (the R&A and the USGA) are not making things easy, they are making things more difficult. The new rule changes that have just come in are micro not macro changes. It was a ruling on the back of Lexi Thompson case that led to yesterday. (In March, Thompson was penalised four strokes for playing her ball from the wrong spot and ended up losing the ANA Inspiration - the first women's Major of the year - in a play-off.) There's the long putter (debate) with Bernhard Langer and Scott McCarron - it's not clear-cut. And they leave themselves wide open.

PK: How about this: 'The rule is the rule. You broke the rule. That's a two-stroke penalty. Suck on it. The next time you place that ball on the marker you will treat it like a nuclear bomb.'

PMcG: Exactly. This is what I'm saying about the leadership - it's reactionary - they always react to what happens, and that's what has led us down this path. What I want to see is somebody banging on the table. 'This is what it is. End of story. It's black or white.'

PK: Go back to Rahm: How would you have called it in the studio? For me, it was a definite penalty.

PMcG: Well, my understanding is that they changed the rule after Lexi Thompson and created grey. And he (Rahm) was in the grey. And there's the problem. If they had said after Lexi Thompson: 'Sorry, Lexi broke the rule.' Then Rahm broke the rule. But they created a grey and had to act on the grey.

PK: Brandel Chamblee told the Golf Channel he should have been penalised.

PMcG: Well, no, because according to the rules there's now latitude. And my opinion is: don't create the latitude. Don't create the grey. It was an over-reaction to Lexi.

PK: What's your take on Chamblee?

PMcG: I think he's terrific. I've worked with him at the Golf Channel and learned a lot from him over the last few years. I think he's bright. I think he's insightful. I think he's ballsy.

PK: How tough is it to be ballsy?

PMcG: It's tough, but there's a way of saying things. I had to make a big call on Rory before the US Open. The word coming from his camp was: 'He's in Portugal . . . He's fresh . . . He's coming back . . . He's flying in practice . . . He has new equipment . . . It's all bedded down . . . He's just got married . . . Everything is going to ignite. This course is made for Rory.' I didn't see it. I didn't see Rory as a contender. I'm a believer, as I said, in trends except when it comes to Pádraig . . .

PK: (Laughs)

PMcG: I saw a guy who was going to be edgy. I saw a guy who has no form of consequence this year. I saw a guy whose confidence levels weren't going to be high and I called it: "I don't see Rory as a contender this week. I don't see how you can go from playing one tournament since the Masters and contend." I did not say: "Rory has got no chance this week. How can he expect to turn up and win? He's not that good!"

PK: Sure, and you've made that point well, but I'll return to the question: How tough is it to be ballsy? You wear a number of hats . . . you work for Sky . . . you're a board member at the European Tour . . . Sky and the European Tour have a relationship . . . How objective can you be in that chair?

PMcG: Well, the one thing I don't want to do is lie. I would like to think I've never lied, ever, in my punditry roles. And I'll continue to do that.

3 Eton boys

Eton has been described as the most famous public school in the world, and been referred to as "the chief nurse of England's statesmen."

The Observer

 

PK: You're clearly enjoying the work with Sky?

PMcG: I am enjoying it. I would also like to improve. We were talking about the London Business School and one of the courses that interests me most is the English language. There are a few Eton boys in Sunningdale and I sit with them sometimes and marvel at their command of the language.

PK: Eton boys!

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: The guys who took Britain out of the European Union?

PMcG: (sighs) Well, that's another story.

PK: Fucking clowns.

PMcG: That's another story.

PK: Boris Johnson and David Cameron! This is what you aspire to!

PMcG: Whoa, whoa, whoa, I'm talking about how they use the English language, not their politics.

PK: Sure, I'm being facetious.

PMcG: Irish people have it too - poets and writers with a great command of the English language, and it's something I'd like to improve. Because it's going well but I'm still learning . . . my body language . . . how I sit in the chair . . . how I dress . . . which camera I'm on . . . how I talk to the viewer with the producer in my ear . . . all of these things are skills. That's why I was interested in The Sunday Game last night. Did you watch it?

PK: Yeah.

PMcG: I thought the Gooch and Mossy Quinn were great. Has Mossy done it before? I don't think so.

PK: No idea.

PMcG: I don't know how much training they've had but I thought they did terrific from a standing start.

PK: What do you prefer? Co-commentary or analysis?

PMcG: I love the analysis. I love the panel discussions. It's one of the reasons I enjoyed The Sunday Game last night. And I think Sky are doing a terrific job with it - I know I'm a Jim McGuinness fan but I love his analysis.

PK: What about the element of performing?

PMcG: I like that.

PK: You do?

PMcG: Yeah, it's an ego thing. It's your stage.

PK: Because there are drawbacks obviously.

PMcG: There are?

PK: Well, the great pundits are loud and definitive and that's not really your style.

PMcG: Well, are they great? I think there are different styles of punditry and different ways of making a point. As a person, I am not Joe Brolly. As a person, I am not Johnny Miller. So if I tried to be Joe Brolly or Johnny Miller I'd be faking it. This is who I am, and this is how I do it, and as much as I'd love to be Joe Brolly…

PK: (laughs) I'm not sure I've ever heard that said before.

PMcG: I think Joe is very bright and some of his lines and witticisms are brilliant. And Johnny Miller is similar - he just calls it - black is black and white is white. But I'm not that kind of person, and I am going to be true to myself. It goes back to what we were saying about empathy. A guy throws a club and misbehaves - yeah, it's wrong. But maybe there's something going on in his life that has put him on edge. For example, take what happened to Jason Day at the start of the year. He pulls out of a tournament injured and it's: 'This guy is always injured . . . This guys is this . . . This guy is that.' His mother had been diagnosed with cancer! The story was here.

PK: His mother?

PMcG: Yeah. So you have to have empathy. And that's me.

PK: What about the ballsy moments when you have to call it? You mentioned The Sunday Game and I'm sure you are familiar with the incident a couple of weeks ago when Diarmuid Connolly was suspended. What if Paul McGinley is in the chair?

PMcG: Well, again, it goes back to the issue of leadership again. Did the punishment fit the crime?

PK: I'm sorry Paul, surely the issue is the rule? Did Diarmuid Connolly break the rule?

PMcG: Yes, he broke the rule. But was 12 weeks (appropriate) for what he did?

PK: That's the rule.

PMcG: Yeah, I know it's the rule but . . .

PK: So having made a case a moment ago for black-and-white, you are now proposing a counter-argument: Let's create some grey. Let's not stick with the rule. Let's make a new system - a one-week suspension for a finger on an official, and a two-week suspension for two fingers!

PMcG: (Laughs)

PK: What's wrong with black and white?

PMcG: Yeah, I get it, I am not going to argue that point.

PK: Okay, so take your Dublin hat off and try to be objective - you're on The Sunday Game when Diarmuid Connolly is jostled and puts his hand on the linesman. What does Paul McGinley say?

PMcG: I actually watched the game in London, and I saw him do it and thought: 'I wonder what happens here?' The linesman obviously knew he was pushed but didn't take action. The referee didn't take action. So obviously something went on afterwards and there was a change of heart. What would I have said? "A rule is a rule. He broke the rule and that's it."

PK: And a week later you're in the chair again when Jim Gavin comes on and . . . Jaysus! To be honest, I don't know what Jim's argument was.

PMcG: Yeah, I mean to suggest that pundits can't discuss these things before they are dealt with by the GAA is wrong. So I don't understand where that was coming from.

PK: Okay, let's stick with golf. The Irish Open has returned to its former glory but it was disappointing that no Irish contended?

PMcG: Yeah, but let's go back to how the sport is governed. We had a record (winning) score in the Irish Open this year. We had a record score in the US Open this year. We had a record British Open last year, and yet we're told technology is not affecting the game. The US Open was played on a golf course that was nearly 8,000 yards long! The longest iron Brooks Koepka hit into any of the par-fours was a seven-iron! The golf course was soft and yet we are still being told, "Ahh, the golf ball is fine." We're seeing great links courses like Troon - and it will be the same in Birkdale if the wind doesn't blow - being destroyed. Is this what we want? Is that good for the game?

PK: I asked about the Irish players and you've gone straight to record scores. Can the Irish not shoot record scores? Rory does.

PMcG: Okay, sorry, we're talking about the Irish . . . Rory was disappointing last week, there's no doubt, but it wasn't a Rory golf course. I didn't see it as a Rory golf course. And Rory is not in a place yet where he . . .

PK: That's the question: Where's Rory?

PMcG: He's not the new kid on the block any more. He's in transition. He's in a very different place. He's a superstar now. He has responsibilities and expectations on his shoulders. He's being paid a lot of money to represent companies. And we don't have as much patience with him as pundits or as people because we expect.

PK: Good point.

PMcG: He's dealing with stuff he hasn't had to deal with before and the next four or five years are going to be challenging. Jon Rahm is where Rory has been for the last five years. You look at Rahm's eyes when he's being interviewed and they're on fire. He's alive. He's hungry. He's excited. There's no burden of expectation on his shoulders. So Rory is in a difficult place, but what we've seen from his career is that he figures things out. He bounces back. But this phase of his career will be more challenging than the last.

PK: Shane Lowry?

PMcG: Shane threatens. I see Shane as a Christy O'Connor Senior. He's a natural, a wonderful player, with some big performances in him. I mean you talk about talent . . . Shane has as much talent as we've seen from any Irishman, Rory excepted.

PK: What doesn't he have?

PMcG: Exactly, what doesn't he have.

PK: No, what doesn't he have?

PMcG: Well, in terms of playing the game there's nothing missing. He's a brilliant pitcher of the ball, a brilliant putter, a great driver . . .

PK: What doesn't he have?

PMcG: Where Shane is at the moment is . . . (pause) It took Pádraig a long time to find the belief that he was great. A Major winner. There were a lot of second places and a lot of disappointment but when he got it, he got it. Shane hasn't got it yet.

PK: Paul Dunne?

PMcG: Paul is a young guy starting out.

PK: What about the rest?

PMcG: I played a practice round with Gavin Moynihan last week (Irish Open) and was delighted he played well and made some money. That's important. He can reinvest that now in what he's doing and take himself to the next level. I think he has balls, Moynihan. And there's a gnarliness about him that I like: "I don't care how I look but I'll compete." Pádraig had that too.

PK: Did you know Pádraig has never been to Donegal?

PMcG: (smiles) Well, he hasn't lived then, has he? He might have won three Majors but he hasn't lived.

Sunday Indo Sport

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