independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Olly example keeps McGinley on course

Europe's team captain Paul McGinley (R) is eager to keep playing golf competitively, just like his predecessor in the role Jose Maria Olazabal

THE man behind the miracle at Medinah, Jose Maria Olazabal, is convinced Paul McGinley can weave magic of his own for Europe at Gleneagles in 2014.

McGinley yearns to emulate Olazabal by leading Europe to victory in Scotland. Yet he is equally determined to follow the Spaniard's example and keep his playing career on the bubble, despite the huge demands placed on Ryder Cup skippers.

His excitement following his appointment last week sweetened the bitter pill of missing the cut in Abu Dhabi, but 46-year-old McGinley's thirst for success on Tour has not been diminished by the fulfilment of a lifetime ambition.

McGinley's ambition was as sharp as ever when he teed it up this morning at the Qatar Masters in a world-class field featuring six stars of last September's Ryder Cup and a coterie of Major champions, led by British Open winners, Louis Oosthuizen and Ernie Els.

Finest

"I'm still keen on playing," he insisted. "It's especially important that for the next two years I have a focus on my golf, that I'm out there competing and my game is in good enough shape that I can play in the top groups with our finest players.

"I'm still really motivated about my golf. This certainly is not a case of me drawing a line through it and moving on to other things. I still love playing and I love competing."

McGinley clinched the most recent and greatest of his four European Tour victories at the elite Volvo Masters in Valderrama in 2005, helping to pave his way onto the Ryder Cup team for the third and final time at The K Club in 2006. Since then, he's been dogged by knee problems, causing him to lose his Tour card in 2010 and 2011. Yet he won back full Tour credentials in 2012.

"I played really well the first seven months of last year," he said. "Despite playing just 16 events in the entire year and missing the last five cuts, I finished just outside the top 80 in the Money List and got within a couple of shots of winning in Wales and the BMW in Munich.

"So my game is still pretty good, even in my mid-40s."

McGinley's duties as skipper this year will include meeting US counterpart Tom Watson to forge the 'Captain's Agreement' on how the 2014 Ryder Cup should be conducted, while he must also choose the captains for the European and GB&I sides at next October's Seve Trophy.

Many other corporate and media duties must be performed and the demands on him will grow to a crescendo in 2014. For many of his recent forerunners it's been virtually impossible to play good golf in Ryder Cup year.

Pointedly, just three European captains since Seve in 1997 held on to their playing credentials that season – Olazabal in 2012, ever-steady Bernhard Langer in the States in 2004 and Mark James in 1999 (see table).

"It is not going to be easy for Paul when it comes to playing golf as your mind is always somewhere else and occupied by all the things that go with the Ryder Cup," Olazabal explained. "So it's important he maintain his energy levels and try and focus as best he can on just competing."

Olazabal has no doubt McGinley has a rare gift for man management. "Paul has been wonderful as a vice-captain in the last two Ryder Cups and the captaincy certainly is in good hands," Olazabal enthused. "You couldn't fail to be impressed by the way he led his team to victory at those Seve Trophy matches.

"I've known Paul for many years. He's good with details and he's great in working with people. I don't need to give him any advice as he's been there and has done it all before.

"He knows what it will take to retain the Ryder Cup but if he does come to me, I will give him my ideas."

As ever, McGinley can be relied upon not to leave that or any other stone unturned on the road to Gleneagles.

Qatar Masters,

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