Monday 23 April 2018

Ian Poulter must earn his place – Paul McGinley

European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley (right) and America Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson pretend to eat a cake covered in their respective team flags
European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley (right) and America Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson pretend to eat a cake covered in their respective team flags

Golf Karl MacGinty

TOM WATSON believes it "essential" for Tiger Woods to be a leader in the US locker-room at next year's Ryder Cup, while Paul McGinley insists that not even Ian Poulter can count on a place in the European team at Gleneagles.

The admiration and respect between the two captains was mutual at this week's 'Year-to-Go' festivities in Scotland but their approach to the most iconic players in either camp was vastly different.

By insisting Poulter, Europe's miracle-worker at Medinah, must play his way into the reckoning, McGinley sent out a clear and clever message to any player hoping to make the 2014 team – all 12 berths are there to be won.

It sums up European confidence after winning seven of nine Ryder Cups since Watson led America to their most recent 'away' victory at The Belfry in 1993.

The olive branch extended by Watson to Woods, who described Tiger's failure thus far to deliver on his vast potential in the Ryder Cup arena as "an enigma", illustrated how relatively difficult skippering the US team has become – especially since Watson has not yet had the chance for a private tête à tête with Tiger since launching an admirably honest but stinging critique for the world No 1's on-course behaviour several years ago.

"I haven't sat down with Tiger," the 64-year-old admitted. "I had an opportunity to sit with him at dinner at the US Open this year and we had a normal conversation with other people, but I haven't sat privately with Tiger for any length of time."

After two days working closely together at the 'Year-to-Go' festivities at Gleneagles, Watson described McGinley as "tough, gritty and no-nonsense. Paul's a fighter and that's what I like about him."

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McGinley showed those qualities when he followed a lengthy tribute to Poulter's heroic role in breathing life back into a European corpse in Chicago last September by saying that was history.

"What Poulter did on Saturday afternoon in Medinah was one of the most incredible achievements I have seen on a golf course or in any sporting arena ... as Jose Maria Olazabal said that evening: 'for the first time all week, we have a pulse'.

"But," McGinley insisted, "I'm talking about the past and what he has achieved up to now.

"If Ian Poulter has a very poor year next year, he's not going to be in the team. The chances of that happening are very slim, but he has to earn his stripes like everybody."

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