Monday 22 July 2019

Padraig Harrington: I'd love to be Ryder Cup captain one day

He did such a good job in the Ryder Cup that Pádraig Harrington believes Paul McGinley could be a succesful football manager - even in the Premier League

Pádraig Harrington: 'I was thankful he asked me, but I'm more thankful that I was there to witness what he did. To use a good Dublin expression: it was brill.' Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Pádraig Harrington: 'I was thankful he asked me, but I'm more thankful that I was there to witness what he did. To use a good Dublin expression: it was brill.' Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Paul Kimmage

Paul Kimmage

This interview started as a column last week at the Dunhill Links tournament at St Andrews. The subject was Pádraig Harrington. The theme was 'What now?' Eight hundred words would cover it; I had the intro and the out, all I needed was a line about his week at the Ryder Cup.

It was a beautiful evening at the Old Course. He had played a final practice round and was walking across the links to his hotel. A piper was playing in the distance.

"How perfect is this?" I mused. "You've gotta love the auld grey toon." But the three-time major winner was cranky.

"I read that interview you did with McGinley," he says.

"You did?"

(Harrington never reads the papers.)

"That was some load of shite he gave you about my football career."

"He did?"

(Harrington never says shite.)

"Do I get the right to reply?"

"You do."

He started talking . . . well, actually it was more of a rant.

His broken tooth.

Dessie Farrell.

The significance of his birthday.

His trophy for Irish dancing.

His father's career with Cork.

And McGinley, lots about McGinley.

Weren't they supposed to be friends?

On Tuesday, I followed him to the Portuguese Masters in Vilamoura and offered him a blank canvas. He had almost calmed down.

The Odd Couple

Paul Kimmage: Do you realise that it's exactly a year since we sat down?

Pádraig Harrington: Is it?

PK: I interviewed you at home, remember? You ate two 99s from your ice cream machine.

PH: I still have the machine, it doesn't go on all the time obviously - special occasions. We'll have to find a special occasion for it, a win would do that. But yeah, it's been an interesting year. It obviously didn't go as I would have wanted. I just didn't play well, full stop. But I've seen some good changes in the last six weeks, my putting has come back and I feel good about my game.

PK: One of the things to come out of our last interview was the confusion. People were amazed at all the stuff going on inside your head.

PH: Really?

PK: Yeah.

PH: It doesn't seem that confusing to me. I suppose my failing is that I tell people, 'This is who I am' and I can't shy away from it. I mean, the amount of people who said to me after the Ryder Cup, 'Wow! You were just a completely different person' (laughs). But that's actually who I am.

PK: Who said it to you?

PH: Several people.

PK: Players?

PH: Yeah.

PK: They found you a different person?

PH: Yeah, they had no idea. A good example is Graeme McDowell; he walks out of physio the first night and says, 'Harrington is after telling two jokes!' Stephen Gallacher was the same: 'Jeeze, you're a different person this week.' And I'm thinking, 'No, no, that's really who I am.' I suppose it's because every other time they see me I'm playing and in a serious environment but being vice-captain was different. Being vice-captain would make me want to retire I loved it so much.

PK: Really?

PH: It was the ultimate, I had no responsibility. I didn't have to get up in the morning to stretch; I didn't have to have breakfast quickly to get to physio, to get out to the range, to play the golf course, to get back to the range, to get back to the physio, to get out to a function. I didn't have any of that. A big decision for me was whether I was going to have a tea or a cappuccino (laughs).

PK: You had no responsibilities?

PH: I had a responsibility to Paul (McGinley) and that was to go out and watch the guys and to question his opinions, that was my job. He specifically asked me to keep out of the limelight.

PK: The limelight being what?

PH: He just said to be careful about doing interviews. My job was backing up Paul, I was not there to be Pádraig Harrington 'the player'. Paul knows I can be quite opinionated at times and I got several phone calls from him reminding me to toe the party line. 'I don't want you going off on any of your weird rants.' He wanted to control the message coming out of our team at all times.

PK: You took great umbrage last week to some comments he made recently about your Gaelic football career.

PH: I didn't take . . .

(He pauses to think about it.)

Okay, maybe I did.

PK: And that's why we're sitting here, you demanded a right of reply

PH: (Smiles) Yeah, I want the right to reply.

PK: I've got the headline: 'A Scathing Attack on the Ryder Cup Captain by Pádraig Harrington'.

PH: Well, I'm not sure about the scathing attack but I'd like to correct some inaccuracies.

PK: He said his first memory of you (at Ballyboden St Enda's) was playing in goal?

PH: Yeah, but myself and Paul wouldn't have known each other at that stage. I'm surprised he (remembers that) because I wouldn't have known him as a footballer.

PK: He knew you as one of the Harringtons: 'Young Harrington'. He portrayed you as this fellow goofing around in a red tracksuit between the goals. It was a less than flattering portrait.

PH: The reason I was a goalkeeper, and possibly the reason I played golf, was because I was born on the 31st of August, which was one day wrong for the club teams, so I ended up playing a year older than my friends. I'd turn up to play and because nobody knew me it was 'Get in goal.' But I have some big accolades in my football career. I was captain of the school team and played my last game of Gaelic football in Croke Park, marking Dessie Farrell in a schools final.

PK: What was your school?

PH: Colaiste Eanna, I was 17 years of age and scored from 45 yards and 51 yards with dead balls. I was full-back for the school, and the captain, and we had obviously scouted St Vincent's and knew that Dessie was their best player and they decided I should play out of position and mark him. I walked out and thought, 'This guy can't be that good' but I've never seen a guy as stout move so quick. I spent most of the game running after him but I'd have preferred to have stayed at full-back and run on to him. He wouldn't have got by me if I was running on to him.

PK: Does Dessie remember the game?

PH: He pretends he does, but I remember him. He was good. Do you see my crooked tooth? (He opens his mouth and points to his front tooth.) That was from Gaelic football. We were playing Clondalkin, a tough team, and I got an elbow in the face. It was the only time that Brian Stynes (Jim's father) ever managed a football team that I played on and I came limping over to the sideline with my poor face (he mimics a whinge) and was told, 'Get back on that pitch.' There was zero sympathy.

PK: One of the interesting things about that interview with Paul was how much he loved team sports. We've always thought the opposite of you, that you were more interested in individual sports?

PH: No.

PK: You don't agree with that?

PH: I agree Paul was big-time into the team element but there was a time when I was playing two soccer matches and a Gaelic match at the weekend and at least one football or hurling match during school hours. I was not an individual person, I was all into my team sports, but all of a sudden I started winning at golf, and this is what happened.

PK: You get success?

PH: You get success, you love the competition, and because of the handicap system in golf, you can win at 12, 13 and 14 years of age.

PK: Paul was very clear on his first memory of you. What was your first memory of him?

PH: I didn't know him at school. I used to go to Wattie Sullivan at the Grange (for lessons). They had the best juniors and Paul was number two in the club at that stage. I tried to join when I was 14 but didn't get in, so I was only aware of Paul at that stage

PK: You've no memory of him playing football?

PH: I never saw him playing football.

PK: He'll be devastated by that.

PH: I think my brother, Colm, might have played a couple of matches with him but my first memories of him were really golfing memories. I was about 14 when he went to Brussels and was told he was hitting 2,000 balls a day over there. He was held up as a role model for me as a kid, him and Mark Gannon. My mother used to call me in the morning and say: 'Mark Gannon has already hit a bag of balls'. And then it was 'Paul McGinley hits 2,000 balls a day' - a complete nonsense because you'd do well to hit 2,000 putts a day.

PK: Do you remember the first time you met him?

PH: We played against each other in 1990. I had just moved from boys to senior and he drew me in the first round of the Irish Close. He was the defending champion and he was furious there was no seeding because he didn't want me in the first round. And sure enough, I beat him 5&4 and though I lost to Darren Clarke in the semi-final (I didn't mind), McGinley was my final.

PK: Why?

PH: Because he was the big kid on the block in my area. He was the guy who hit 2,000 balls a day; he was the guy who got the scholarship to the States; he was the big star coming home from California and I was the little lad who was going to show him a thing or two. And I knew he wasn't happy about it.

PK: He says you were horrible to play against.

PH: There could not have been anybody worse. They all said it. I'd be all over the place and they would think they were going to win the hole and it would be 'How did he do that?' And my answer, in hindsight, was that I didn't know any different. I just did it. Then a year later we were paired together in the Walker Cup but we really didn't know each other. And we didn't really bond until the World Cup in '97 . . . McGinley is quite a fool actor.

PK: What do you mean by fool actor?

PH: He likes messing. I remember at the World Cup in Malaysia, there was a stand-off because he robbed Caroline's shoes and threw them up into the ventilation (ducts). He spent the whole week trying to wind Caroline up. One time, at the Irish Open, I'm talking to a blonde girl and he comes up and slaps her on the backside and puts her in a headlock, thinking it was Caroline. And I'm looking at him thinking . . .

PK: 'This ain't Caroline.'

PH: Yeah, and it's a good ten seconds before he realises he has the wrong girl. But at the World Cup in '97 we shared a house and got on like a house on fire. Every night we would finish and the girls would go back and Ally (McGinley's wife, Allison) would cook dinner. We would be told: 'Right, dinner at six o'clock,' and we'd finish (practising) at ten to six, just in time to get back, and McGinley would always insist, 'No, we're going to sit down first and relax and have a drink.' And we'd come back late and there would be uproar but McGinley would brazen it out. His attitude was, 'We're out doing our job. We'll come back and the dinner will be on the table.'

PK: So he's old school?

PH: Yeah, we laugh about Paul. He never looks at the menu in a restaurant. He'll sit there and say: 'Can you make me this?' And they always do. I remember that first night at the World Cup I got up to do the dishes and McGinley wouldn't have it. It was, 'No, no, we're working Pádraig. That's it.'

PK: Which is interesting given his speech at the Ryder Cup when he said Allison was the Captain in their house.

PH: And she is. The greatest thing about McGinley is that he's the most unorganised person ever. If he didn't have Ally and the kids to organise him he wouldn't function.

PK: Which is extraordinary given how organised he was at the Ryder Cup?

PH: Well, when it comes to the Ryder Cup he did a phenomenal job. I can't tell you how much he impressed me, because I know him as the messer; I know him as a disorganised person; I know him as the person who is always late; I know him as the guy I saw in '97 at the World Cup: 'We'll go and have a drink and get back when we're ready.' I've seen him invite six people around to his house for dinner, without telling Ally. Could you imagine doing that in your house?

PK: No.

PH: (Laughs) 'Hi Ally, I've just brought the lads around for dinner.' That's normally the way he is, easy going and incredibly relaxed, and yet, at the Ryder Cup, he applied himself in a completely different way.

PK: Were you surprised by that?

PH: I was worried about it. I was worried that he would use too many statistics and not enough gut feeling. He stressed at the start of the week that the statistics would be 20 per cent of the make-up; that gut feeling was going to be 80 per cent. I'm not sure how it worked out in the end but I know from his analysis that he had all the options covered. He knew the players' form from past Ryder Cups and Seve Trophies; who they could play with, who they couldn't play with. He knew the personality golfing wise of a dozen people, and another three or four who didn't make the team. It was incredible how much work he put into it.

PK: Did you ever play under him at the Seve Trophy?

PH: No, I hadn't seen any of this. They all said he did a great job but there have been lots of captains who did a great job, but they do it on instinct. And I'm not saying this wasn't instinctive to him during the matches, but his instinct was drawn from the facts and what he knew. This stuff required a lot of time and effort. I mean he gave up two and half years of his career for this tournament and he has set the bar very high for anybody going forward.

PK: How did you feel when he went for the captaincy?

PH: He has rewritten the book on this. Up to Paul McGinley, the Ryder Cup was a job given to - and this probably doesn't suit me - but the Ryder Cup captaincy was a job given to whoever achieved stardom as a player. And basically that was Major winners.

PK: But not always? Mark James wasn't a megastar. Sam Torrance wasn't a megastar?

PH: Torrance had a massive amount of wins and was a big European star; Mark James might not have been a major star but he was a prolific player.

PK: But they weren't Major winners?

PH: No but Torrance was right up there. You could ask where Mark James came from, there was an opportunity for him at the time, a bit like Paul. Paul saw there was an opportunity for him in 2014 and that a lot of the marquee players would be going for the ones after that. He had put the work in beforehand at the Seve Trophies and loved the Ryder Cup. And we all supported him. All of the Irish guys wanted him to get it and we were gobsmacked when Darren threw his hat in the ring.

PK: There was a call for someone of 'standing' to go against Tom Watson.

PH: Well, that was the spin on it, but for us Paul McGinley was the man. (Miguel Angel) Jimenez was in the mix and Sandy Lyle was in the mix and it was a good contest for Paul. But when Darren threw his hat in the ring I was gobsmacked because it came out of the blue and Paul thought he had his support. That was the big thing, Paul thought he had his support. I mean Paul needed no push to land the job until Darren entered the race and then it took a big push to get him across the line. And then Darren (withdrew) and threw his support behind Monty and that just made it 10 times worse.

PK: Did it change your relationship with Darren?

PH: No.

PK: Does that mean you hadn't a great relationship in the first place or you were prepared to ignore what he had done and get on with it?

PH: It didn't change our relationship.

PK: Which means you don't have a great relationship? Or a close relationship?

PH: We don't have a close relationship. I played the World Cup with him in '96 and we didn't play again, even though we were qualified to play.

PK: He didn't want to play with you?

PH: No . . . look, we say hello and work together and there's no issues or animosity between us.

PK: But there has never been much warmth?

PH: Well, I'm trying to think if we have ever gone out for dinner but saying that, I don't think we'd walk by each other without stopping and saying hello.

PK: Did you talk to him about it?

PH: No, I don't think we've ever had a heart-to-heart. We're not . . . we're a different age and have different personalities - about the only thing we have in common is that he probably practises as hard as I do.

PK: So you were obviously happy for Paul when he got the job?

PH: I was thrilled for Paul when he got the job, but I never realised how good a job he would do.

'Harryo give me a ring.'

PK: When did Paul ask you to become one of his vice-captains?

PH: The Monday after Wyndham (August 18). He waited until I was mathematically out of the reckoning (to qualify) before asking me.

PK: How did he ask? Was it a meeting? A phone call?

PH: He sent me a text: 'Harryo give me a ring.' I was in New York and knew he wasn't ringing me to ask me to be on the team, so I gave him a ring. He said, 'Look, I'd like you to be a vice-captain' and without pausing for breath it was, 'This is the plan. This is what I'm thinking. These are the players I'm looking at.' He was very stressed and worried about us being favourites.

PK: You knew this call was coming? You knew he would ask?

PH: Well it's funny, Paul spent a fair bit of time in the US this year and we saw more of each other this year than we have for a few years. At Wentworth (in May), I was at his house for dinner and it was one of a number of occasions when the Ryder Cup came up. It might have been Caroline asking Ally, 'What are you doing for the clothes?', but we never spoke about his picks or the vice-captaincy. It was the elephant in the room but we were both very professional. There was no such thing as . . .

PK: 'Don't worry, I'll look after you?'

PH: Yeah.

PK: So you never had a conversation about his picks before he asked you to be a vice-captain?

PH: No, it was never mentioned.

PK: What about after that?

PH: A lot. He told me exactly what he was thinking and who he was looking at. I was privy to his thinking for the last two or three weeks, because we both played in Italy (the final qualifying tournament on August 31) and for that whole week we were meeting and talking.

PK: Just the two of you?

PH: We had one sit-down, just the two of us, but that was more about what he expected from me. But we also spoke about the picks and that was . . . there are plenty of bonuses to being vice-captain but that was the real bonus, being on the inner circle and being absolutely grilled by every player about what was going to happen.

PK: Really?

PH: Yeah, and having a fair idea and not giving it away.

PK: But you hadn't been announced at that stage?

PH: No, McGinley said to me: 'We're not announcing you as a vice-captain until after the picks, so don't say anything.' So I said, 'That's fine.' When somebody tells me not to say something, I don't say it. But the following week I'm out having dinner with my mates, the Irish lads, Peter (Lawrie) and Damien (McGrane) and they're pumping me: 'What's the story? Has he called you yet?' And I'm like, 'Naah, he hasn't said anything.' And they're having great crack with this because McGinley had already told them!

PK: They knew?

PH: (Laughs) McGinley had told them all.

PK: That's good.

PH: So I lost a bit of my cred with the boys. But every player I (shared) a courtesy car that week was grilling me. And the theme coming back was that there would have been a complete revolt on the Tour if (Stephen) Gallacher hadn't been picked, a complete revolt.

PK: Why?

PH: Because any one of the 115 guys who keep their card on the Tour this year, could be Stephen Gallacher next year. He is one of the guys and when he makes the team you have every player on the European Tour thinking 'I could make this team.'

PK: And that's important?

PH: Well, if they took it away . . . It's a bit like the lottery. That's how they sell lottery tickets: 'It could be you.' It was a pick for the people, and there were no issues, he deserved it, but I could feel the pressure. And McGinley had to be getting it too.

PK: The big call was (Lee) Westwood or (Luke) Donald.

PH: Well, Ian Poulter deserved a pick from his past record and Lee Westood deserved a pick from his past record and Luke Donald's record is phenomenal, so it wasn't easy. And as much as Paul told us (the five vice-captains) what he was doing and asked us to punch holes in it, I don't think we were changing his mind.

PK: Would you have made the same call?

PH: I know Paul was very close to Luke. He felt Luke would play well for him, and emotionally he wanted Luke in the team. I personally felt that Lee's stature was important.

PK: You would have gone with Lee?

PH: I would have put Lee down as my number one choice; no matter how good your captain is, you need a player of Lee's stature in the team room who can muster the troops and who people are happy to follow and believe in.

PK: You mentioned the sit-down meeting in Italy. What did Paul say he expected from you?

PH: He told me he needed me to support him in the background and not to undermine him. That was important. There could only be one captain in the team and he made that clear.

PK: Because you two don't always see eye to eye?

PH: We don't, we love . . .

PK: Arguing?

PH: Discussing. We hop balls off each other. He often accuses me of taking the opposite view for the hell of it, and for sure I tend to do that, but I knew that he was running the show. It wasn't my show. The buck stopped with Paul because at the end of the day if it went wrong, it wasn't the vice-captains who would get the blame. It was his show and I was prepared to row in.

PK: You arrived in Gleneagles on Monday afternoon?

PH: Yeah, I was still practising at 12 o'clock on Sunday night. I got up at seven the next morning, saw my kids off to school, practised until 11, hit the gym, had a shower and only just made the flight at two. And once I left, I knew I was not going to hit a shot all week to the extent that at one stage, when I was following Victor (Dubuisson), his coach told me he had a lovely new driver and went to hand it to me but I wouldn't take it.

PK: Why?

PH: I didn't want to be pictured with a golf club in my hand. I felt that was part of my mo from Paul: it was not about me this week. I was not to be standing at the back of a green swinging a club. I was not to be standing on the green with my arms crossed judging these guys.

PK: Did he spell that out to you?

PH: No, but that's why you don't see me. I stood at the exit point of every green and waited until the guys came off and let them know I was there for them; I gave them words of encouragement and went on. I wasn't there as a three-time Major winner; I wasn't there to judge them.

PK: I thought we would see you every evening on the range bashing balls?

PH: No, that wasn't my job that week.

PK: That was a pretty big deal for you.

PH: Yeah, it was hard.

PK: Caroline mentioned one moment when it really hurt you that you weren't playing?

PH: The only time I had a regret for the week was sitting on the stage (during the opening ceremony) when the guys were walking in. That's a really great experience, the people are cheering and the hairs stand up on your head and I missed that.

PK: Was it painful?

PH: No but there was a longing. And I did miss it, because walking in as a vice-captain is not the same, you've done nothing.

PK: What about the matches?

PH: I enjoyed watching Paul's predictions come true, all the way through the matches.

PK: What do you mean by his predictions?

PH: He just called it, how guys would react, what they would do together, his insightfulness.

PK: At a time when he looked to be doing everything right, there was a sense that Tom Watson was doing the opposite. Did you have that sense?

PH: Yeah, for sure there were signs. For me, personally, I thought the US lost a tremendous opportunity with Phil Mickelson: every player on that team looks up, admires and would follow Phil Mickelson and the biggest thing Tom (Watson) could have done was to recognise Phil as his ace and to use his influence in the team room. If he had let Phil loose in the team room, you wouldn't have been able to contain those guys, they would have played like Keegan Bradley in Medinah. But the captain didn't do that and kept talking about . . . I think the term he used was hard love.

PK: Tough love.

PH: Yeah, tough love, but tough love doesn't work for everybody, some players need an arm around the shoulder. I mean Tom is great in the way he speaks and does things in the public domain . . .

PK: He's presidential?

PH: Presidential is the word but there was a detach between . . . okay, maybe players are soft now; maybe they are 'a bunch of millionaires' but you have to get the best out of them. And you don't get the best out of them by telling them that they're rubbish. If he had let Phil have the floor in the team room they could have been devastating.

PK: At what stage were you aware there were problems?

PH: The biggest flag was Saturday morning when Phil didn't play. We were shocked. I couldn't wait to see the team sheet in the afternoon to see if he was there. I thought: 'Can you leave Phil Mickelson out for a whole day? Can you leave Keegan Bradley out for a whole day?'

PK: Another major talking point was 'litigate.'

At a press conference, three days before the opening fourballs, when it was suggested to Mickelson that the Americans find it hard to play against each other he replied: "Well, not only are we able to play together, we also don't litigate against each other" - a clear reference/swipe at the ongoing legal battle between Rory McIlroy and his former management company, Horizon, that had embroiled McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

PH: That was funny, and it showed a lot of things. When we heard about it first, it was 'Oh my God, I can't believe he said that' and there was a lot of hemming and hawing about what we should do. Then we met face-to-face at the Gala function that night and we all had a laugh. I mean, 20 years ago the players never interacted and you had these conspiracies all the time. It was 'they've been told to play slow' or 'they know the speed of the greens' but now we all know each other and when you stick us in the same room . . .

PK: You can have a laugh.

PH: Yeah, because that's all it was. Players hop balls off each other, but when that ball is being hopped in the media it's amazing how out of proportion things can get. What Phil said in that interview was something we'd say in the locker room; it was locker-room talk, that's all, and Phil loves locker-room talk.

PK: It's obvious that you like him?

PH: Phil?

PK: Yeah.

PH: Phil is a good friend.

PK: Were you surprised at the post-match press conference when he shafted Watson so publicly?

PH: Was I surprised? Well, I met him that night and got the feeling he was thinking 'Gee whizz! Why did I go down that road?' He stood behind what he had said, and there's no question he was being honest, but he had created a storm he didn't need. Phil has the same failing I have, if you ask him a question he will answer it. And we like talking. He's too honest but that's who he is.

PK: You say you're alike but what if the reverse had happened? What if you were sitting beside say, Nick Faldo, and were asked the same question?

PH: I would hope I'd have the good sense not to. Phil has too much integrity not to tell it as he sees it.

PK: Would you have done it?

PH: I would definitely have gone down the same road and explained what a good captain would have done, which is what got him into this. He praised (Paul) Azinger but Azinger was a great captain. He set a path for them in the way McGinley has done for us.

PK: There's a photograph of you in a compromising position at the party on Sunday night doing the rounds on the internet.

PH: Compromising? What was I doing?

PK: You've got Tabitha Furyk (Jim's wife) sitting on your back.

PH: She's standing on my back so it wasn't compromising.

PK: It sounds a bit iffy to me.

PH: No, that's a party trick of mine.

PK: Explain.

PH: One of Victor (Dubuisson's) friends told me he was thinking of being a professional table tennis player, so I immediately suckered two of our guys into playing us (at doubles). I saw my opportunity and we won comfortably and to back it up I offered one of the guys, a young pro, double or quits that I could do between two and three hundred press-ups. So I doubled my money and followed it up by saying, 'I bet I could out-plank you.'

PK: What's a plank?

PH: It's a core exercise; you lie face down and take the weight of your body on your toes and your elbows. Normally it's quite boring and can take four or five minutes but I challenged the young pro to take some extra weight on our backs. He took Kate Rose; I took Tabitha Furyk and won comfortably. He wasn't pleased and was heard to utter: 'Well at least I'm not fat.' To which I replied, 'Yeah, I may be fat but I'm experienced.'

PK: Might we speculate on the identity of this young pro?

PH: You can speculate all you like.

PK: Is there a chance he might have won a couple of Majors this year?

PH: Fat and experienced wins every time, that's all I'm saying. Have you ever seen me do 300 press-ups?

PK: No.

PH: Do you want me to do it now?

PK: No, I'm not doubting you, but would prefer if you answered the questions. You've said that the only time you were concerned for Paul was on the morning of the singles?

PH: Yeah, because he had done everything right, and called everything right and set the team up and I just thought 'Wow! What if it all goes wrong?' And I was really worried for him. I knew how much it meant to him and how good he was but if you lose you're a bad captain. That's how the media portray it. Win and you're great, lose and you're bad, it's black and white. And I just thought 'Here's a guy who has given more to the Ryder Cup captaincy than anybody. He has done a brilliant job but now it's all out of his hands.' And I was really taken aback by that.

PK: Did you have any moment with him after the team had won?

PH: I stood back on the 18th and didn't get involved. I gave Ally a hug because she's the one who has lived it, and if there was a sense of relief with me, I can't imagine how she felt. I mean, as much as Paul will say he would have been able to handle defeat, who knows? But I was truly happy for him and truly happy for Ally.

PK: That's nice.

PH: Yeah, but I think the highest praise I could pay Paul McGinley is not something I could say to his face.

PK: Why?

PH: I couldn't. Are you joking? Tell him straight out? After all of the discussions we've had over the years? No way.

PK: Okay, let him read it.

PH: One of the biggest ribbings we used to give McGinley was . . . We'd be watching a match, and of course he's friendly with all the Celtic guys and we'd often say: 'Paul, it's half-time, do you not think you should be ringing Martin O'Neill to tell him what to do in the second half?' I used to think he was like the rest of us. 'What's that guy doing?' 'Why is he being played on the wing?' 'This is useless.' But after watching him at the Ryder Cup, I genuinely believe that if he turned his hand to being a football manager he would be a success. And I mean with a Premiership team, he could do the job, I was very, very impressed.

PK: Okay, I think he'll enjoy reading that.

PH: Yeah, and it kills me. But I will say . . . I'm not proud, but I'm happy to have been part of it; myself and Paul have shared a few bonds during our career, and the World Cup (win) will never be surpassed but this was right up there. I was thankful he asked me, but I'm more thankful that I was there to witness what he did. To use a good Dublin expression 'It was brill.'

PK: Was there anything about the experience that would (a) make you want to do it? Or (b) make you wonder if you'd be up to it?

PH: I would love to do it but I know I will have to work at it. Paul has set the bar very high for anyone who wants to follow him. Nobody did what he did. Every other captain (I've played for) has used instinct and emotion and fly-by-wire: 'Yeah, that looks like a great partnership, off you go.' McGinley did his research and used cold, hard facts. So I realise from watching him that it's not a jolly, but I'd love to be a captain some day.

PK: But not next time?

PH: No, I'm going to play.

PK: You're going to play?

PH: I feel great about my game. I feel I could be better than ever before. I said last week that I want to get back in the top 15 in the World (rankings) and to play in the Olympics in two years' time. I'm still motivated.

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