Monday 25 September 2017

McGinley to consider extra captain’s picks

Paul McGinley
Paul McGinley

James Corrigan

IF it ain't broke, just tinker with it. That is already Paul McGinley's captaincy mantra as he sets his first sights on Europe's Ryder Cup qualification process. His enthusiasm is such that he will find it almost impossible not to make at least one alteration.

Today the Dubliner leaves the Dubai Desert Classic to make it a hat-trick of inactive weekends. Yet these three missed cuts have failed to sour three of the most joyful weeks of his sporting life.

"I'm not sure this smile will ever disappear," McGinley said.

It is fair to say his day job has thus far been a victim of his succession. Since being elected to lead the blue and gold cause next year, his energies have not been spent on his swing, but on his plan for Gleneagles. Thursday will see him formally sit down with the European Tour at Wentworth.

"I need to talk to the Tour and see how far I can push the boat out," he said.

The first substantial role of the captain in the 20-month cycle is qualifying. Four years ago, Colin Montgomerie changed the system to award himself three picks. Jose Maria Olazabal then went back to two. McGinley seems to be leaning towards more.

"It's the number of picks I'm concentrating on," the 46-year-old said. "The highest number of our top players are now members of the US Tour. Is that going to make it more difficult for the very best players in Europe to qualify for the team? Do I need to have more picks because of that?"

The answers appear obvious: yes and yes. McGinley acknowledges that "even four wildcards is an option". Perhaps this is what he means when he talks cautiously about "doing something that affects the Tour commercially".

It is in the Tour's own interest to incentivise the top players to appear in Europe and, of course, Ryder Cup qualification can be huge motivation. McGinley knows there is a balance to be struck; in this and his own eagerness.

"It is a danger that I'll over-captain. As much as my exuberance and excitement is great, I have to be careful not to over-communicate with the guys, not to bombard them with my thoughts," he said. "It's hard, as I'm bursting with ideas... We've got a template; we've won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups.

"If it ain't broke, it doesn't need completely overhauling."


After Tom Watson was appointed as the US captain in December the cry went up that Europe needed their own legend to make it a fair fight. Enter Colin Montgomerie on a dream return ticket, before Rory McIlroy and co ripped it up.

"What I felt like screaming was show me the correlation between great players and great captains. Where's the historical evidence? The argument doesn't hold up. Now I'm not saying Tom Watson won't be a great captain, but 'great player equals great captain' is not a given," he said.

"I'm certainly not afraid of him, I'm looking forward to pitting myself against him. I'll take advice from everybody .

"The last thing I'm going to be is arrogant. I'm good friends with (Sunderland manager) Martin O'Neill. I love listening to him. And in Gaelic football, Jim McGuinness won the All-Ireland last year with Donegal. It was the equivalent of Fulham winning the Premier League. I've spent hours with Jim.

"I'd have been fascinated by leadership, irrespective of whether I'd have been appointed Europe captain. But now I have and I cannot wait. I love captaincy and I love team golf."

Meanwhile, Ireland's hopes of golfing glory in Dubai this weekend rest mainly on the shoulders of Peter Lawrie and Gareth Maybin, who are in a nine-way tie for 11th place on eight-under.

Ballyclare favourite Maybin shot a splendid bogey-free 67 on the Majlis Course yesterday, while Lawrie followed up his magnificent 66 on Thursday with a hard-working 70 in blustery conditions. Damien McGrane eased through the cut on four-under after his level-par 72 but Michael Hoey (71, 71, two-under), Shane Lowry (74, 72, two-over) and McGinley (74, 77, seven-over) all missed out.

The missed cut is a major blow to world No 62 Lowry's prospects of remaining in the top-64 until next Monday week, the cut-off point for the season's first World Golf Championship, the Accenture Match Play. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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