Friday 22 September 2017

Paul McGinley leaves huge legacy for Ryder Cup successors

He's been the best captain I've ever played under - McDowell

Karl MacGinty

Like all European Ryder Cup captains, Paul McGinley now moves on, hopefully to bigger and better things in his life … yet, to a man, his players at Gleneagles fervently hope the Dubliner's legacy will be honoured by his successors.

None put it better than Sunday matinee hero Graeme McDowell yesterday when he said: "Paul's template absolutely should be carried on. He's not reinvented the wheel this week but he's refined the machine. He's looked at how Europe's been successful; he's worked out how to fine tune each part of it and he's done it exceptionally well.

"Sometimes the captain is built up too much or put down too much because it all comes down to players, what shots are made and putts are holed," added the Portrush man.

"But Paul has been the best captain I've ever played under, by far, because of his organisation levels and the way he's related to every player in the team room and making clear the role each of us had. It's been great."

Outstanding

Rory McIlroy, whose public statement of support for McGinley on the eve of the captaincy vote in Abu Dhabi 20 months ago was key to the Dubliner's appointment, was absolutely outstanding yesterday in his efforts to make him a winning skipper.

Europe's captain Paul McGinley congratulates Jamie Donaldson on the 15th hole shortly before sealing the Ryder Cup victory after Donaldson defeated Keegan Bradley
Europe's captain Paul McGinley congratulates Jamie Donaldson on the 15th hole shortly before sealing the Ryder Cup victory after Donaldson defeated Keegan Bradley
McGinley compares notes with Alex Ferguson

Yet Graeme McDowell, who showed ocean depths of character in coming back to beat Jordan Spieth 2 and 1, was central to one of the most compelling stories at the 40th Ryder Cup. One which exemplified McGinley's management skills and the importance of truly knowing your players as men, not just golfers.

McGinley first recognised McDowell's talent for mentoring young players when he captained G-Mac and a fledgling McIlroy at the 2009 Seve Trophy. So he asked the Ulsterman to assist with Victor Dubuisson's assimilation into the Ryder Cup family.

A process which extended back several months achieved the desired result at Gleneagles. As the uniquely-gifted but enigmatic Dubuisson, 24, showed his wide array of skills alongside new 'big brother' McDowell in two memorable foursomes matches, a star was born.

The captain also handed England stalwart Lee Westwood a wild card ahead of Luke Donald because he shares with McDowell the ability "to perform that senior role and bring on another golfer" in the white heat of the Ryder Cup.

"Not many people in history have ever done it," explained the captain. "I remember Seve playing with David Gilford and looking after Jose Maria Olazabal. Golf is a very individual sport and it doesn't breed that kind of personality but Lee did it in the past with Nicolas Colsaerts, who made 10 birdies in his first match two years ago with Westwood on his shoulder."

Westwood gave Welsh match-winner Jamie Donaldson, 38, winner of his first European Tour title at the 2012 Irish Open at Royal Portrush, the platform upon which to build confidence as they won three out of three games on Friday and Saturday.

McGinley's knowledge of his men also lay behind the combination of McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. Any doubt that playing with the World No 1 inspired his sometimes erratic partner were dispelled by the long, grateful embrace the Spaniard shared with the Ulsterman after their Saturday afternoon foursomes success over Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan.

McIlroy also selflessly gave Ian Poulter an opportunity to rediscover the Ryder Cup talisman inside during their halved match with Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler that morning.

In contrast, Tom Watson didn't know his players. In standing down Texas rangers Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth on Friday afternoon, the venerable American erred badly, compounding it by pushing Mickelson beyond his personal bounds of endurance alongside Keegan Bradley in that second session.

Watson, 65, pushed Jimmy Walker and Fowler a game too far on Saturday afternoon. After 54 squeaky-tight holes in 36 hours, he ordered them into the valley of death against the fresh McDowell and Dubuisson and they were annihilated.

The failure to tap Mickelson's vast experience and Bradley's passion, either individually or collectively, on Saturday was grievous, while the captain was ungracious by revealing he'd rebuffed the Californian's pleading, both face to face and later by text, to give himself and Bradley a chance in the foursomes.

McDowell regards Dubuisson as "a superstar in the making" and shares credit for helping him deliver on that potential, leading to a confidence-boost which the Ulsterman says, "Will be huge for him as he matures and grows as a player.

"As it did for me in 2008, I think the Ryder Cup can make a big difference to a guy's career and his whole belief in himself," added McDowell.

"Victor's a very, very cool dude. Yes, he's very quiet but there's a lot of intelligence and a very big heart.

"Getting to know him this week, as I have, I've started to realise how great a guy is in there, how much talent is in there and how much passion for the game of golf."

Guarded too? "Yeah," confirmed McDowell, "He's guarded for reasons and I've chipped away at the surface a little bit. There's things in his past he doesn't want to talk about and that's fine. You're not going to go there with a guy."

McDowell, was hugely impressed as Dubuisson as he took Jason Day to extra holes in February's Accenture Match Play final. He was his team-mate at the EurAsia Cup, exchanged phone numbers with Victor after they played 36 holes together in France with advice to ring him anytime.

"As Rory says, Paul has been a man with a plan. He said to me that he wanted me to be a leader this week and to help blood rookies and Victor was the one he entrusted me with.

"I'm proud to have been alongside him out there and to have watched him grow as a player in the way he has. He's been awesome. His ball-striking has been incredible, as has the way he's conducted himself.

"I crave that kind of big brother, arm-round-the-shoulder thing and I think it came out of me the last couple of days. It's fun to do."

Because of McGinley and McDowell's efforts, to Victor went the spoils!

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