Ryder Cup Memories: McGinley recalls Belfrey heroics
Published 07/09/2010 | 15:19
Paul McGinley's memories of the 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry are both magical and surreal.
The magic, of course, was the 10-foot putt he holed against Jim Furyk to give Europe victory and the wild celebrations that followed - including him diving into the lake and then draping the Irish tricolour around himself.
What was surreal came a few hours earlier. The scene could hardly have been more different.
"When I got to the third green there were about 20 people watching," the Dubliner told Press Association Sport. "I remember thinking 'is the Ryder Cup going on here or not'?"
All that it signified in truth was that his turn would come. He was in the ninth of the 12 singles and Europe's fans were otherwise engaged at that moment.
Over at the nearby 14th, for instance, there were enormous roars as lead-off man Colin Montgomerie beat Scott Hoch 5&4 to take Europe into a one-point lead.
Behind that Bernhard Langer, Padraig Harrington and Thomas Bjorn were heading towards victories as well, while Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood were fighting battles they would eventually lose and Darren Clarke was giving his all for what would eventually end up as a half with David Duval.
It was with Clarke that McGinley had already sampled what both the atmosphere and the pressure could be like.
"We played together in the final fourball game the afternoon before and came down the 18th with everybody there watching.
"There was a huge amount of focus on us and luckily we won the hole and got a half to keep the teams level."
He is being modest talking about luck. With Clarke in the fairway bunker McGinley hit a glorious four-iron to 12 feet after captain Sam Torrance had told him to hit first in order to put the heat on Furyk and Hoch.
"From that rarefied intensity I went out the next day and there was a bit of an atmosphere around the first tee, but then it quietened down.
"The match was very nip and tuck, as it always is with Jim Furyk. I was aware of the boards, but not watching them - I was so focused on my match and it was such a tough one that I didn't pay a huge amount of attention to the overall situation.
"All I knew by the cheers that things were very finely balanced."
And because they were finely balanced his role became of crucial importance.
The four cup newcomers in the side - Niclas Fasth, McGinley, Pierre Fulke and Phillip Price - had been placed in positions eight to 11 as gambler Torrance put his experienced men out first in the hope of creating momentum.
They had breakfast together, with Fulke recalling: "We all pretty much said that one of us is probably going to be the hero."
With seven of the 12 games done Europe had built a two-point lead, but because they were not the holders of the trophy two more were needed from the final four.
Fasth looked set to grab one of those until Paul Azinger dramatically holed a bunker shot on the last for a half, but in the performance of his life Price beat Phil Mickelson 3&2, his long putt on the 16th sending him and the crowd wild.
Only one halved match required then, but McGinley was one down with two to play, Fulke's game with Davis Love could go either way and the same was true of Jesper Parnevik against Tiger Woods at the bottom of the order.
"I had no clue that Azinger holed the bunker shot until later that night when I watched the highlights," said McGinley. "We were on the 18th tee box when he did that."
And he was relieved to have got that far.
"Jim had a 12-footer and I had a 13-footer, so if I miss and he holes the match is over.
"But I holed and he missed to make us all square. Then I absolutely buttoned my tee shot and crossing the bridge Sam walked up and told me the situation."
He and Furyk both missed the green and when Furyk failed to get up and down McGinley knew his 10-footer would clinch the overall match - and in it went.
A night of celebration inevitably followed, but ask McGinley about it and he will be able to chronicle it.
"My wife gave me great advice when I finished. She said 'Don't get drunk tonight - enjoy the night'.
"I savoured every minute of it. That night is not a blur to me and one of the greatest experiences I ever had fun-wise was down in the bar with the fans.
"That will live with me for ever. It was just fantastic."
Fulke, his half with Love mere icing on the cake, commented: "There were 11 heroes on this team and one that's a slightly bigger hero. That's Paul McGinley."
The 43-year-old came out of his debut with a record of played three, lost one, halved two. He did not win a game in 2006 either, but like 2002 he did not need to.