Sport Golf

Tuesday 2 September 2014

McGinley deserves his captaincy chance

Karl MacGinty

Published 30/10/2012 | 05:00

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Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley celebrate with the Ryder Cup after Europe’s victory at the K Club in 2007. Both are in the running for captaincy for 2014.

NOBODY reads tea leaves anymore and, sadly, neither Titleist, Srixon, Nike nor Callaway make crystal balls. Yet psychic powers aren't necessary to deduce which of the two leading candidates for the European Ryder Cup captaincy in 2014 enjoys the support of senior European Tour executives.

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And it's not the guy who has received hearty endorsement in recent days from several of the players behind Europe's miracle at Medinah. Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, McIlroy and Peter Hanson have all nominated Paul McGinley as the man to lead the team into action at Gleneagles in two years' time.

Word of McGinley's exceptional acumen for the job has spread through locker rooms on Tour since the GB&I teams he captained upset the odds and beat Continental Europe in the 2009 and 2011 Seve Trophy matches.

Yet the Dubliner is viewed by bookmakers and the vast rump of the British media as second favourite behind his fellow vice-captain in Chicago, Darren Clarke, in the race to succeed Jose Maria Olazabal.

One certainly didn't need to read between the lines three weeks back when an English newspaper bluntly stated: "Darren Clarke has won the race to become Europe's captain at Gleneagles in 2014." Wow!

In fairness, Clarke immediately issued a Tweet flatly denying he had been given the job, pointing out that Olazabal's successor won't be "decided by the committee until January".

The European Tournament Players Committee, which alone is responsible for picking Europe's Ryder Cup captains, is expected to make its choice for 2014 in the week of January's Abu Dhabi Championship.

But the writer who 'broke' the story of Clarke's 'appointment' added: "The Northern Irishman has already been approached by the European Tour and has indicated he wants the job."

The clear suggestion is that the 15 players on the all-powerful Tournament Committee, which includes McGinley and Clarke, inevitably will bow to the wishes of the Tour's professional executive. It will be interesting to see how that one pans out in January.

Meantime, reporters at last week's BMW Masters in Shanghai were advised before Clarke's pre-tournament press conference that he would not be taking any questions on the Ryder Cup captaincy. Wise move.

It's not the US presidential election and, one assumes, members of the committee are unlikely to be swayed by demagoguery.

Unsolicited

McGinley has been reticent on this subject since Europe's stunning victory at Medinah. Yet there's been no shortage of significant players prepared to offer unsolicited support to his cause.

"Both Paul and Darren would be great captains," said McDowell. "But Paul has kind of forged a little niche for himself, given the way he conducted himself at the Seve Trophy and the Ryder Cup vice-captaincy.

"He's a scholar of the game and a strategist and technically, if that's the right word, would be a good captain.

"Emotionally, Darren would be a great captain and a great motivator with that big personality of his.

"If it all boiled down to playing credentials, Darren of course would win hands down," the Portrush native continued. "However, that opens a can of worms -- are we looking at a captain who has the right playing credentials or are we looking for individuals who will be great Ryder Cup captains?"

McDowell made his debut at Valhalla on a well-beaten European Ryder Cup team captained by six-time Major champion Nick Faldo.

Donald added: "Paul's been very diligent, very enthusiastic and whenever I've been around him I've enjoyed it. He just has a really good team vibe. He seems to think about the small things."

Endorsing McDowell and McIlroy's belief that Clarke's vast experience, gregarious nature and huge popularity in the US make him an obvious choice for the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, Donald pointed out: "I do believe if Paul doesn't get it this year, he probably won't get it at all."

The Ryder Cup is the financial powerhouse which drives European golf, so one understands why the Tour executives might consider it vital to have someone of Clarke's charisma to focus support in the run-up to a home match.

Yet the staggering atmosphere at Medinah showed how irresistible the Ryder Cup has become to the corporate sector and golf fans, making it utterly futile to waste one of the most naturally gifted team captains Europe is likely to produce.

As he grapples with chronic knee injuries, it's difficult to see McGinley's Tour career stretching to 2016. His talent must be harnessed now or lost forever.

Irish Independent

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