| 12.2°C Dublin

Paul Kimmage interview: Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley forged in GAA furnace

Close

Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke

Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke

Europe's Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley

Europe's Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley

PA

/

Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke

Almost nine years have passed since my last interview with Paul McGinley in December 2005. We met at a plush hotel in London and after a memorable two hours discussing his best ever season as a golfer he was suddenly, and uncharacteristically, jumpy.

"There's nothing too controversial in there?" he said, flicking his bushy eyebrows toward my recorder.

"Not at all," I assured.

"I haven't nailed anybody?"

"No, you haven't nailed anybody."

"I haven't told any secrets?"

"You haven't told any secrets."

"It's just that all of my competitors are going to be reading this and I don't want to give anything away. You won't find Colin Montgomerie telling his secrets to the papers."

"You've nothing to worry about," I insisted. "Why are you so jumpy?"

"Well, it's just . . . things are going well for me right now; I don't want to put pressure on myself by making a bollocks of it."

McGinley always delivered when the gun was put to his head. In 2002, he started his first Ryder Cup fighting the worst slump of his career but he held his nerve and sealed a memorable win for Europe, and his place in golfing folklore, with the most aesthetically joyous leap the sport had ever seen.

Two years later, he won two-and-a-half points out of three for Bernhard Langer's side and looked a world-class player for three days in Detroit, but it left his supporters scratching their heads. McGinley hadn't won a tournament in over three years. Why was he delivering for the team but not for himself?

"I suppose it goes back to my Gaelic football days when I was part of a team," he explained. "I get a kick out of everybody pulling in the same direction."

We meet on a Saturday morning in Dublin on the eve of the All-Ireland hurling final. He's looking forward to the game and is counting down the days to the Ryder Cup and the biggest week of his sporting career in Gleneagles. "I'm very conscious of how strong America are going to be but I've got a great hand," he smiles.

His composure is what strikes most. A week before, he had breezed through a potentially fraught live press conference at Wentworth. The night before, he was charm personified on The Late Late Show. I remind him of how jittery he was the last time we met and ask him to explain the transition.

"The captaincy is something I'm comfortable with," he says. "I like the role. I like the challenge of behaving and saying and doing the right things. Standing on a tee box and hitting a ball 300 yards down the middle has never come easy to me; standing over a five-foot putt and trying to hole it has never come easy to me; standing in front of the media like I did last week comes easier to me.

"I'm just trying to be myself. I'm trying to be honest. I'm not telling a lie. That's the one thing I don't want to do."

But there was one lie.

1 Front Nine

A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.

Nelson Mandela

Long Walk to Freedom

Paul Kimmage: Pádraig Harrington made the point this week that he didn't think any captain in history had put as much thought into preparing for the Ryder Cup as you have?

Paul McGinley: Well, I don't know, I can't speak for other captains. I don't know what work they've put in, that's just a view. To be honest, it's not something I'm doing because I'm besotted about it, it's something I'm doing that I really enjoy. You know me, I love sport; I'm going to the hurling final on Sunday; I love listening to what people have to say about Kilkenny and Tipp; I love listening to what they've been saying about Dublin (and Donegal). I spoke to Jim Gavin during the week.

PK: Did you really?

PMcG: I wanted to hear where he was at, four days after the event: 'How do you feel, Jim? Was there something you didn't get right?' I was on the phone to him for maybe half an hour trying to pick up something that might help me. I didn't call (Jim) McGuinness.

PK: You didn't?

PMcG: No, he's winning. He's doing it right. You learn more from your losses. I met Jim (Gavin) during the summer and we had a great conversation. I thought, 'This guy is really on it.' You talk about me being prepared but I can assure you that Jim Gavin and his team were as prepared as any team ever for last Sunday. What were they going in? 1/7 favourites?

PK: I thought they were 10/1 on.

PMcG: And for him to come out on the beaten side! I mean, we're not 1/10 (for the Ryder Cup) but I can relate to how prepared he would have been going in. This is not a complacent guy. This is not a guy who would have thought, 'Jayse lads, we'll just turn up here.' But they still went out and got beaten, and I wanted to know how he saw it because there is always something you can pick up on.

PK: Would you like to share a couple of his reflections?

PMcG: (Laughs) That's for him to say, not me, but he was very honest.

PK: Has it been tiring Paul? You too have left no stone unturned.

PMcG: No, I don't feel tired. I feel energised, I feel excited. The quality of the team we have in place gives me confidence. The engagement that I've had from the players over the last two years has been phenomenal and that gives me confidence too.

PK: What do you mean by engagement?

PMcG: They are not dismissive when I chat to them.

PK: What about Rory (McIlroy)? He has been through a very interesting time since you got the job. Did you have any input into the decisions he made?

PMcG: No input at all. When he wasn't playing well, and the shit was hitting the fan in a number of different areas, people were saying: 'Are you having a word with Rory? Are you giving him advice? Have you talked to his management company?' I said, 'Wait a minute! They made me Ryder Cup captain, they didn't make me God!' My brief is to captain 12 players during a seven-day window at the end of September. My job until then is to communicate with them sporadically and keep them all onside. It's like a fellow I met up in Donegal . . . did I tell you this story?

PK: No.

PMcG: I came over to see my mum and dad for a few days last April when they were up in Donegal. There's a big head called Horn Head not far from their house and I used to walk it every morning. I'm coming down the road and over the cattle grids and there's a fellow putting sheep into a trailer.

"You're that McGinley fellow, aren't you?" he says.

I said, "Yeah."

"You're the captain of that thing . . . what do they call it?"

"The Ryder Cup."

"Yeah, that's it, you have to manage McIlroy and all them fellows."

"Yeah," I said, "it's a team of 12. We're playing against America."

"I suppose it's a bit like my job here," he says. "You're herding sheep the whole time and you don't want one to go astray, do you?"

I said, "You know what? You're not far off."

PK: I like it, very good.

PMcG: And this fellow hadn't a clue about golf but he would have heard the chat in the local town.

PK: Talk to me about your attachment to Donegal. Your dad, Mick, was the son of a grocer from Dunfanaghy?

PMcG: Yeah, dad was the second youngest (of five) and the one that left home. He worked in the Merchant Navy as a radio officer.

PK: That was the British Merchant Navy?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: I would imagine that was frowned upon in Donegal?

PMcG: Yeah, but you know what it was like back then - a job was a job. And we're not a political family.

PK: He played for the Donegal minors?

PMcG: And for the senior team as well. He was a good footballer - a corner forward/half forward like me.

PK: And a good golfer.

PMcG: Yeah, a one handicap, he never got to scratch.

PK: What was his ultimate love?

PMcG: Football. I spoke to him on the phone after the Dublin match and I've never heard him as excited. He knows Jim (McGuinness) very well and walks the beach with him when he's up there. He has never drank in his life but will stay up until two in the morning chatting about football and drinking coffee or Coke. He loves the company and sharing old stories.

PK: He joined the Merchant Navy in '61 and you were born in '66. How did he meet your mother?

PMcG: At the dances in Donegal. Then Dad went off to sea and she was working as a schoolteacher in London. They came back, got married and Dad couldn't get a job in Donegal, so he came down and got a job fixing TVs.

PK: He came to Dublin?

PMcG: Yeah, they lived in Dundrum and then, six months after I was born, they moved into the house they are in now - in Rathfarnham. Dad worked for Phillips repairing TVs. He played a bit of golf but couldn't afford to join the Castle or the Grange so he joined Naas, which was a million miles away at that stage. And that's where I played my initial games of golf, along with Dunfanaghy during the summer.

PK: Out in Naas?

PMcG: Naas was the most affordable place for him. That's where I played my golf until the age of 18.

PK: You're the eldest of five?

PMcG: Yeah, Mary, Karen, Michael and Suzanne.

PK: What's your strongest childhood memory?

PMcG: Holidays in Donegal. The freedom.

PK: Where did you go?

PMcG: Always to Dad's. It was a five-bedroomed house in the middle of the Main Street in Dunfanaghy. My uncle Brian ran the grocery store underneath. He wasn't married but lived in the house with my auntie Kakie and her husband, Kevin, and their two girls and then the 'Dublin crowd' as they called us would come up. So there was a lot of people in a small area but you didn't think twice about it. But the freedom was great. We used to go to the local GAA matches; I played a bit of golf, a bit of fishing, and then we'd go down to see Mum's people in Rathmullan.

PK: What about your connection to Donegal?

PMcG: I see myself as Dublin. I used to watch the Dubs on Hill 16 and was incredibly excited about the Dublin team of the '70s. I could name the 15 players no problem. Sean Doherty, the full-back, was from our club (Ballyboden St Enda's) and the big hero. And that's how I see myself. I have a real affinity for Donegal but I see myself as a Dub.

PK: Your first sporting hero was Trevor Brooking at West Ham. That was kind of odd?

PMcG: Very odd. It started at the 1975 Cup final. I'm eight years of age and the Skeltons, who lived five doors up from us, had just bought a colour TV. It was the only colour TV in the street and the whole street got into their front room to watch the FA Cup final. West Ham were playing against Fulham and I wanted them to win purely because of the colour of the shirts - it was boring black and white or claret and blue. And I went for that. Alan Taylor scored twice and West Ham won 2-0 and that was me since.

PK: You played Gaelic football for Ballyboden?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: But your Dad drove you to Donegal once for a trial?

PMcG: How did you know that?

PK: It's called research.

PMcG: Yeah, that's one of my great regrets.

PK: Why?

PMcG: I loved Gaelic football. I had more of a talent for football than I had for golf. It came easier to me, I could see it. I was playing left half forward. Jim Stynes was our midfielder at Ballyboden and we had an understanding. I wasn't the biggest guy, but I was very accurate, good at passing and great at taking points from distance.

But the one thing that was against me was my birth date - I was born on the 16th of December and with the GAA rules, I was underage to play club level but two weeks overage to play for Dublin and I could never get past the trials. I wasn't big enough.

PK: How did the trial with Donegal come about?

PMcG: I was frustrated, and said it to Dad and he says, 'Maybe we'll take you up to Donegal'. So I was all for it. We drove up this morning to the pitch where they still play in Ballybofey and into Jackson's Hotel for a sandwich and tea. I'm looking forward to the trial but bugger me doesn't it start raining, and it doesn't stop - torrential. The whole thing was cancelled and for some reason it never came on my radar again. And I always regret it, because I know I probably would have got through and played for Donegal. I played under 12s for Dublin but that means nothing; I didn't play under 16s or under 18s.

PK: Because there's an impression out there that you played minor for Dublin.

PMcG: Yeah, people say that but I didn't. I wish I had, but I didn't. I look with envy at guys like Quinny (Niall Quinn) and what a great career he had. Quinny was at Drimnagh; he's the same age as me and we knew each other well. And then he goes off and joins Arsenal and I remember thinking 'Oh my God!' Because it was like he was going to Hollywood. He disappeared for a year or two but I remember I was selling Christmas trees in Rathfarnham village when he played his first game against Liverpool.

PK: I never realised you had a connection with Niall?

PMcG: I've known Quinny since I played against him at 14. Drimnagh Castle were our rivals and everybody knew Quinny because he was six foot six when everybody else was five foot six. He was probably a better hurler than he was a Gaelic footballer. I played soccer against him too but I always thought hurling was his best game.

PK: And you were selling Christmas trees when he made his debut for Arsenal?

PMcG: Yeah, my next-door neighbor owned a fruit and veg store in Rathfarnham village. The guys took me into the pub to see it. I think he scored.

PK: It was remarkable that you, Niall Quinn and Jim Stynes all came from the same area. And then Pádraig Harrington came along.

PMcG: Pádraig was four years behind us but he didn't play Gaelic football to the level we did. He played because he had to play in school, but he didn't gravitate towards being a footballer the way we did. He turned to golf at quite a young age whereas for me, golf was just something I did in the summer until I was 19.

PK: What was your first memory of him?

PMcG: My first memory of him would have been at Ballyboden St Enda's. He was a kid, one of the Harringtons, everyone knew who the Harringtons were. I remember him in this red tracksuit, literally throwing himself around the goal (laughs).

PK: He wasn't going to get a trial with Arsenal?

PMcG: (Smiles) No, he wasn't. I don't remember him playing outfield, just as a goalie. And I remember him being in school. 'Young Harrington.'

PK: So your first proper contact with him would have been on the golf course?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: Your aspirations of playing for Dublin ended with a knee injury?

PMcG: Yeah, I'd been carrying it for a while not knowing what it was. It would swell up and I'd put ice on it and a bandage on it and play golf for the summer in Donegal and forget about it. I came back in early September to start my first year in college and was training one night in Ballyboden and my leg just went from under me. The kneecap was fractured. I had a plate in it for a year.

PK: Would you have been a professional golfer if you hadn't had that injury?

PMcG: Nah, no chance.

PK: What would your life have been?

PMcG: I'd like to think I'd have played for Dublin. I'd like to think I would have been noticed at senior level and got a trial.

PK: What's interesting is the sense of regret in your voice.

PMcG: Yeah, I do regret it. I envy Niall Quinn, not because he played Premiership football but because he played for Dublin. And played in an All-Ireland final. And I envy Kevin Moran for what he did too.

PK: That's amazing given the career you've had as a golfer.

PMcG: It's the connection of playing for the jersey and representing the people you're from. The Ryder Cup is the same. You're playing for your people. I'm playing for the members of Ballyboden St Enda's and all them fellows that drove me to matches when I was a boy. That's where I see the connection between the GAA and the Ryder Cup, and that's why I bring it up so often. It's that sense of bonding.

PK: You left school and went to the College of Marketing. What did you aspire to be?

PMcG: A stockbroker. I liked the buzz of the city and the adrenaline of shares and changing markets. I'm not a good guy for going into a (structured job). I wanted something with a buzz.

PK: You spent some time in Brussels?

PMcG: Yeah, I did three years in college, got a diploma in Retail and Marketing and spent six months as a 'stagiaire' with the EEC. I was paid £100 a week and met a fellow from Donegal, Eamonn Gallagher and his wife, Nora, and they looked after me great. Eamonn got me facilities to practise at the Royal Club de Belgique and I used to get the tram out in the evening time and practise under the floodlights.

PK: How did the golf scholarship to San Diego come about?

PMcG: The post in Brussels finished in March '88. I came back and a fellow in the Grange gave me a job as a runner with a small stockbroking company in Dublin, and I spent six months there. The golf was going well. A couple of the good Irish guys had got scholarships in America so I wrote to a number of universities and got a chance to go to San Diego. The deal was that if I paid my way for the first year, and made the team, they would give me a scholarship for the second year.

PK: It was in San Diego that you saw Tom Watson for the first time?

PMcG: Yeah, the course we practised at was Torrey Pines and I would watch him play and follow him around in the tournament there. He was very much my hero then. I was too shy to speak to him but he gave me his glove once.

PK: At Torrey Pines?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: What if someone had suggested that you would end up going heat-to-head as a Ryder Cup captain with this guy?

PMcG: Yeah, I know, isn't it funny how life goes?

PK: You met your wife, Allison in San Diego?

PMcG: Yeah, I met her the first day I was there. She was playing for the girls team and the coach was ribbing us that she was English and I was Irish and we wouldn't be speaking to each other.

PK: She's not 'front of house'?

PMcG: No, far from it. It's going to be difficult for her in the Ryder Cup.

PK: Will it?

PMcG: Yeah, it's not her style, but she has done pretty well. She has tried to simplify it and not make it big and razzmatazz. It's all about doing things in an understated way.

PK: You're an interesting fit that way.

PMcG: Yeah, we are. We're very different in a lot of ways and very similar in other ways.

2 back Nine

Q: What did you think when you heard that Darren had decided not to stand?

A: When I heard Darren decided not to stand, to be honest, I was quite level about everything. If Darren was going to stand, he was going to stand and that's his right to feel that he would like to be considered, and I didn't have a problem with that whatsoever. At no stage did I have a problem with Darren standing.

His first press conference as

Ryder Cup captain in

Abu Dhabi, January 15, 2013

PK: Paul, at what stage did you think you might make a professional?

PMcG: After my first year in San Diego. I went out there thinking, 'I don't know if I'm any good at this,' but the worst-case scenario was that I'd have a degree in International Business, and because I had no expectation things evolved. I made the team and played well but the real test was when I came back to Ireland. Darren (Clarke) was just about to turn pro and I wasn't that far behind him and that's when I thought I might be good enough.

PK: What are your first memories of him?

PMcG: We played in the Irish Youths in Malone (Belfast). My auntie and uncle lived in Dungannon, not far from where Darren lived, and we agreed that he would drive up one day, and I'd drive up the other to save on petrol. Then I went to San Diego and when I came back after the first year (1990), Darren was the dominant player. He beat me in the final of the North of Ireland but I played well and we had an incredible match. He turned pro a month later and I went back to San Diego thinking, 'I'm one of the top players in Ireland. I've really come on.'

PK: Where was Harrington at that stage?

PMcG: As Darren was going off, Harrington was coming on.

PK: You've described his game at that time as 'amazing.'

PMcG: He didn't have a game, he had a heart and he had a short game. I drew him in the first round of the Irish Close in Baltray when I was the defending champion. He beat me. It was a horrible draw.

PK: You always liked Darren?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: Did you have the same relationship with Pádraig?

PMcG: No, probably because he was younger, and he was . . .

(He is trying to find the word)

PK: Odd?

PMcG: He had a chip on his shoulder and wasn't easy to speak to. And he was frustrating to play against. He played slowly and arsed around and was up and was down and was scratchin' and the ball would be going all over the place. But Jaysus when he got that lob wedge and the putter in his hand!

PK: Maybe he thought: 'This is the bollocks that used to laugh at my red tracksuit?'

PMcG: (Laughs) I don't think he remembers that. But I didn't laugh at him - he was only a kid and I was with the big boys.

PK: You played on the Walker Cup together in '91?

PMcG: Yeah, I mean they talk about (Nick) Faldo changing his swing - there is nobody in the game who changed (their swing) as radically as Pádraig Harrington. I remember him in that Walker Cup hitting this low cut . . . it was the only shot he had. He could hardly get it airborne! And then you look at that big, high powerful draw he had when he was winning major championships, it was incredible.

PK: You went pro straight after that Walker Cup?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: You were almost 26-years-old?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: Which is really different.

PMcG: Very different.

PK: What about those first years? Was it hard watching Clarke and Harrington grab all the headlines?

PMcG: I'm not that envious a person, if I was, I would probably have been a better player; if I was more selfish, I would probably have been a better player. My aspirations were to play in all the Majors and the Ryder Cup. I didn't aspire to win major championships; I didn't think I could win major championships. I wish I had done, I wish I had more ambition and rawness and that 'fuck you' attitude. Because my game got close enough to win major championships but I don't think my mind ever did.

PK: How do you explain that?

PMcG: Everybody is different. I look back on my old self now and I'm a bit cross that I wasn't more ambitious. I didn't have that hunger that both Darren and Pádraig had. They were hungrier than me.

PK: Maybe you're a happier person, though? There is always a trade-off.

PMcG: There is a trade-off. I think, as a human being, I have empathy and an understanding of people and hopefully I can bring that to the captaincy. When the debate about who should get the captaincy was going on, people were saying: 'We need a big name, a Major winner, who has achieved a lot in the game.' And I wanted to scream. I mean, show me the correlation between being a great player and a great captain. And not just in golf, but in any sport? There is none.

PK: Okay, go back a little bit: I asked about the success of Darren and Pádraig and you said you weren't envious.

PMcG: I wasn't envious. I was doing my thing and improving and making a few quid. I was winning tournaments and progressing on the ladder. They were progressing more and faster than me. Darren was easier to accept because he was born to play golf. He had the gift. In his first year on Tour he was as good, if not better, than 85 per cent of the guys who were already pro. And he just got better and better. He had a talent and he played a powerful game.

PK: And Pádraig?

PMcG: Pádraig developed that game, that's what makes him so interesting. He developed from being a short hitter into a big hitter, and the reason he was able to do it was his short game. His short game stayed with him as he was making the changes and his performances never tailed.

PK: You won the World Cup together in 1997.

PMcG: That was massive, it still is. I look back on that week with such incredible memories. We were playing against Freddie Couples and Davis Love, two of the big stars in America, in their own back yard. And Monty (Colin Montgomerie) was in his pomp. We're two two guys who aren't on the radar and we win. It was brilliant.

PK: It cemented a bond between you?

PMcG: Yeah, that was the first real bonding because the girls bonded too. The four of us shared an apartment together and we had great fun off the course and great times on it.

PK: You were with him in Carnoustie when he won the Open?

PMcG: Yeah, I followed him around in the play-off. I was meant to go to Portugal that night but I phoned Ali in the car park - she was out there with the kids - and told her I'd changed my flight. I thought 'There is no way he is not going to win this play-off.' I had a sense.

PK: What was it like watching someone you had grown-up with, lift the Claret Jug? I find it hard to believe there wasn't a part of you thinking 'If only that was me.'

PMcG: Of course there is but again, I am not an envious person.

PK: Darren's name is on the Claret Jug as well.

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: What if I was to suggest that this Ryder Cup is your major?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: Your place in history.

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: Are you conscious of that?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: When did it first enter your head that you might like a crack at the captaincy?

PMcG: The first time it came on my agenda was in Baltray in 2009. There was a committee meeting (before the Irish Open) and it was decided that the Ryder Cup captain should take an active role in selecting the captains for the Seve Trophy and oversee everything. Monty was the Ryder Cup captain. He called me aside after the meeting and told me he wanted me to captain (the Great Britain and Ireland team) at the Seve Trophy and to be his vice-captain in Wales.

PK: What was the timeline?

PMcG: That was in May and the Seve Trophy was that September I think. Thomas Bjorn was in charge of the European team and they were amazingly strong. We had Rory and Graeme McDowell; Graeme was a good player but Rory was 40th or something in the Order of Merit, so we were heavy underdogs. So I did the strategy and the pairings and it went unbelievably well.

PK: It was held in France that year?

PMcG: Yeah, Paris. It was a real challenge going up against a very strong team but we hammered them, we really hammered them. And the guys said great things publicly and privately to me afterwards and all chipped in to buy me a watch. I thought: 'Jesus! I really enjoyed that. This is something I'd like to do.'

PK: You'd had the chance to do it before: You were offered the position of vice-captain by Faldo in '08 but opted out?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: Why?

PMcG: There were a number of reasons. First, and foremost, I had just played in the '06 Ryder Cup and probably shouldn't have accepted it. I felt my golf was starting to slide. And Nick was very much his own man so I just thought, 'This is not a ride I need to be part of. I'm going to go and try and make the team.'

PK: You wanted to play?

PMcG: Yeah, I wrote him a letter and we spoke on the phone and there was no animosity. There still isn't. I spoke to Faldo recently at the US PGA and we still get on well. And I'll tell you what, I wasn't that far away from making that team. I rallied that year ('08) and had a great run.

PK: In 2011, you were chosen as a captain for the Seve Trophy again.

PMcG: Yeah, there was a groundswell of opinion (after he had been vice-captain to Montgomerie in Wales) that I'd done my bit. Darren wanted to be a vice-captain (in Medinah), and to be a captain at the Seve Trophy, and he had a lot of support from people on the committee. But then he won the Open and had other stuff on his agenda and I was put back in again. And that was huge for me. If Darren hadn't won the Open, he would probably be (Ryder Cup) captain now.

PK: That's interesting.

PMcG: Yeah, so I was put in as captain for the Seve Trophy again and replicated what I had done. (Lee) Westwood played and Darren played and (Ian) Poulter played and it went along similar lines. I remember standing on the 18th fairway with Poulter in the Singles. He was playing (Matteo) Manassero and the pin was tucked left over the water. I said, 'Poults we don't any need heroics here, all we need is a half to win the match.' But there was a big crowd around the green and he looked at me and says: 'What about the crowd?'

PK: (Laughing) He said that?

PMcG: Yeah, with a big smile on his face. In other words: 'Don't deny me my stage.' I looked at him (sternly) and he says, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah' and hit a safe shot into the right side of the pin and holed the putt. And I remember giving him a big embrace because now my CV was very, very strong. I still wasn't over the line but I had a great chance.

PK: So, you've captained two winning Seve Trophy teams and won two Ryder Cups as a vice-captain. How do you put yourself forward for captain?

PMcG: You don't, you wait until the committee decides and that decision was going to come after the meeting in Abu Dhabi.

PK: But surely there are candidates?

PMcG: The candidates are the guys that stand out. I was an obvious candidate and Darren made it very clear that he wanted to be captain.

PK: Not at first?

PMcG: Yes, right after Medinah.

PK: But he sent you a letter a year before saying you had his full support. How did that square with him going for the job?

PMcG: I don't know how it squares. And it's not something I have an opinion of because I never spoke to him about it.

PK: But it's curious.

PMcG: It's something you need to ask him about. And I regret that the news of the letter came out because it was a private letter that he wrote to me after the Seve Trophy (in 2011). A year later, he had obviously changed his mind but he never conveyed that to me and after Medinah it was very clear he wanted the job.

PK: I've been looking through the cuttings and it was a month after Medinah (October 2012), at a tournament in Turkey, that Westwood made a case for Darren in the papers.

PMcG: That's right.

PK: And when that happens, there has to be a part of you thinking, 'What the fuck is going on here?'

PMcG: Of course there is but I'd rather not talk about it. I've moved on from it and unfortunately friendships have . . . whatever has happened, has happened. I'm on the verge of the Ryder Cup and I don't want to be dragging up all this stuff.

PK: You don't want to talk about it?

PMcG: No, it happened, it's over, we move on.

PK: You said at the start of the interview that you haven't told any lies but you told one lie.

PMcG: Go on.

PK: The lie was an answer you gave at the press conference, straight after you had been awarded the captaincy. Quote: 'At no stage did I have a problem with Darren standing.' But you did have a problem with him standing.

PMcG: I didn't.

PK: Not at all?

PMcG: I wouldn't say not at all . . . Are you quoting me on this?

PK: Yeah.

PMcG: It wasn't for me to tell Darren he can't stand. He wrote the letter a year before but was totally entitled to change his mind.

PK: But there must have been a part of you that felt betrayed?

PMcG: You're saying that.

PK: It would only be natural.

PMcG: I'm not disagreeing with you.

PK: When is the last time you spoke to him?

PMcG: I saw him in Turin last week.

PK: Did you speak to him?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: Did you tell him he was not going to be one of your vice-captains?

PMcG: No.

PK: You never felt you had to make that call?

PMcG: No.

PK: It was obvious it wasn't going to happen?

PMcG: Yeah. Our conversations (now) are short and sweet: 'How are you? Fine. Move on.'

PK: That's kind of hard given how far you've come together?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: And those great experiences you've shared?

PMcG: Yeah, but do you know what? It happens in all walks of life whether you're a businessman, a journalist or a golfer. It's what happens. You move on.

PK: Because the killer blow wasn't when Darren decided to stand against you, it was when he withdrew and rowed in behind Monty, someone he didn't actually like.

(He smiles but does not reply.)

PK: I'll take that as an acknowledgement.

(He changes his mind.)

PMcG: Now that was different. When you say: 'You told a lie,' I didn't tell a lie.

PK: You'll have to explain that to me.

PMcG: The answer I gave at the press conference was that I didn't have a problem with Darren standing.

PK: You weren't asked if you had a problem with him rowing in behind Monty?

PMcG: No.

PK: So you didn't tell a lie?

PMcG: Checkmate.

PK: Talk to me about that week and the build-up to the meeting.

PMcG: It was difficult. There was a strong body of opinion that we needed a big personality to go against Tom Watson. I knew I wasn't that guy, and Monty had made it clear that he would like to be captain again. There was an opinion in the media that Monty was an odds-on favourite and that the committee would row-in behind.

PK: You obviously had an opinion on this but you didn't voice it?

PMcG: I didn't voice anything; I didn't speak to the media for three months. I know how the committee think - I'm part of the committee - and know they wouldn't have enjoyed the public dogfight that was going on. And I didn't want to contribute to that or be a part of it. There were also friendships involved and I didn't want to get into a public tit-for-tat.

The best thing to do was to sit on my hand. And I had a very strong hand. I figured I had 11 of the 12 players, I certainly had 10, who (played in) Medinah, and as the week unfolded, some of them were calling me: 'This is wrong. Don't worry, we're going to row in behind you.'

PK: And then Rory came out for you?

PMcG: Rory came out very strongly.

PK: And that was massive.

PMcG: That was massive, but there was another interesting thing that happened too.

PK: Go on.

PMcG: Peter Lawrie was voted onto the committee that Christmas and I knew how Peter would be voting. I never called him or spoke to him, I wanted to come through the whole process by doing it right, but I knew where he was going to go.

PK: How did you feel when you had got it? How did it happen?

PMcG: The meeting started. They asked me and Monty to leave and we went back to our rooms. My brother was with me. We're in the room about 10 minutes and there's a knock on the door. I'm thinking 'Jesus Christ! That's quick!' I open the door and it's Rory and Shane (Lowry): 'We thought you needed some company.' They came in and lay on the bed. My cousin had baked me a tin of oatmeal cookies and we had a bit of banter and ate them all.

A half-an-hour later, the door rang and it was a guy from the Tour saying the committee had made their decision. It was like walking to the gallows. Thomas (Bjorn) met me outside the room. He was the chairman. He said: 'We've made our the decision and voted you to be the captain. I'm going to bring you into the room now and officially ask you to accept.'

PK: That must have been pretty joyous?

PMcG: Yeah, my brother had walked down with me and as I was going into the room, after Thomas had spoken to me, I gave him the thumbs up.

PK: And he called your dad?

PMcG: Yeah.

PK: So for the guts of the next two years you've got this new role as the European Ryder Cup captain?

PMcG: Yeah, there was a lovely story . . . I missed the cut that week in Abu Dhabi, my head was all over the place, and I go home and get my diary out for the two years. I had a big meeting with the Tour about the dates and the picks and where I needed to go and we decided that we were going to treat ourselves and go back to San Diego as a family for the Easter holidays.

PK: And this is special because San Diego is where you met?

PMcG: Yeah, and the kids love it there. We're staying in a Marriott (hotel) on the I-5 freeway. It's not that luxurious but we have inter-connecting rooms and access to the business lounge on the top floor, where you can have your breakfast free in the morning. We go to bed and wake up the next morning at 6.30 jet-lagged, so I tell Ali I'm going upstairs to get some doughnuts and coffee.

PK: To the business lounge?

PMcG: Yeah. So I put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and some flip flops and get into the lift and it goes up one floor and this guy gets in. He's suited and booted and has a briefcase and is full of the joys of spring.

"Hey buddy, how you doing?"

I said, "Grand, yeah, how are you?"

"Is that an Irish accent?"

"Yeah, I'm from Ireland."

"Oh my God, I love Ireland. My mum's from Ireland. I live in Boston and was brought up in a Catholic Irish school."

So the lift is going up and he's going on about Ireland and I notice he is wearing a Ryder Cup tie from Medinah. So I change the subject:

"Were you in Medinah last year?'

"I've gone to the Ryder Cup for the last 20 years," he says. "It's the greatest event of all time. The best Ryder Cup ever was the one in Ireland in 2006, it was just amazing.'

So we get to the top floor and as we're getting out of the lift I ask: "Will you be going to Gleneagles?" He says, "Hey man, of course I'm going to Gleneagles, we've got an Irish guy as captain, how could I miss it?"

(McGinley laughs)

So we go in and we're getting our coffee and he says "Are you going to Gleneagles?" And I said, "Yeah, I might go." He says "Buddy, see you there."

PK: You never told him?

PMcG: I never told him.

PK: That's a great story.

PMcG: Well, it's one of those stories that sums up (the difference between) Tom Watson and me - that would never happen to Tom Watson in a lift in San Diego.

'It's playing for the jersey and the people you're from. That's the connection with the Ryder Cup'

Sunday Indo Sport