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McGinley is Ryder Cup skipper in waiting

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Iain Carter | 16:30 UK time, Sunday, 27 September 2009

With one anecdote Britain's brightest golfing prospect justified the retention of the biennial clash between GB and Ireland and Continental Europe on the European Tour calendar.
After becoming his team's talismanic leader in the Vivendi Trophy with Severiano Ballesteros (formerly Seve Trophy), Rory McIlroy devoured the infamous words of indifference he'd expressed about team golf last May.

The 20-year-old did so while praising his captain Paul McGinley - the real star of the four sun-blessed days at Saint-Nom-La-Breteche. "Every team meeting was at half-seven this week and I actually looked forward to being in those team meetings," McIlroy said.

"I was usually turning up at quarter-past seven because there was such a buzz about them. You had all the lads in there with their ideas and Paul has a load of great ideas, especially with the team format, the foursomes and the four-balls."

Paul McGinley and Rory McIlroy
All smiles at the Vivendi trophy

McIlroy had realised before a ball had been struck in anger this week that he had been wrong to regard events like the Ryder Cup as a mere exhibition. Just preparing in the team environment had been enough and with each competitive round he found out just how wrong.

And much of the credit for that must go to McGinley who has established himself as a Ryder Cup skipper in waiting with his deft man-management, tactical skill and impeccable public relations.

The Irishman clearly knew how to get the best from his men and recognised that in the absence of big guns like Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose he had to make the most of McIlroy's burgeoning reputation.

It was hardly rocket science to pair him with his best mate Graeme McDowell, but it was an inspired move to send them out first on the opening day and in both sessions of the pivotal Saturday.

Both relished the role and delivered - the only time they lost was when sent out in the middle of the pack in the Friday fourballs where McGinley was trying to second guess his opposite number Thomas Bjorn.

"I like to take responsibility," said McIlroy after defeating Henrik Stenson in the top Sunday singles clash, a result that meant when McDowell wrapped up victory in the second singles against Robert Karlsson the contest was over with seven matches still live on the course.

Beforehand McGinley had reminded McIlroy of his pride in being unbeaten in singles play in pro-team golf. The Northern Ireland youngster said: "He told me this is the start of your singles record, go out and start it the way I have."

Colin Montgomerie, who watched the first three days here, is already talking about sending out McIlroy first at Celtic Manor in the 2010 Ryder Cup and it is music to the ears that reside beneath McIlroy's bushy black hair.

But more significant was McIlroy's observation that "I just want to be there."

Monty appointed McGinley and Bjorn to lead their respective sides in Versailles and should have gleaned plenty from the way the Irishman approached the job - the sorcerer could learn much from the apprentice.

While relishing the job, McGinley's only frustration was that he'd still prefer to be playing. "I'm not really ready for this," the 43-year-old Dubliner said.

The fact is he will be by 2014 and he must be favourite to lead Europe against the United States at Gleneagles.

This Vivendi Trophy was one-sided but there was plenty of intensity, particularly with Montgomerie's presence enhancing the Ryder Cup dimension.

Aside from the excellence of McIlroy and McDowell, Monty will have learned much from the positive way Chris Wood, Anthony Wall (until he was injured) and Ross Fisher responded to life in a team environment. The same can be said of Anders Hansen and Francesco Molinari in the European side.

It was a shame Seve Ballesteros wasn't able to make the journey for the presentation and this was probably as much to do with strained business relations over this event as the draining effects of recovering from the radio-therapy treatment for his brain tumour.

Significantly he referred to the event by its old name, the Seve Trophy, throughout his recorded message for the presentation ceremony.

What is certain is that this event does have a competitive value, providing Europe with an equivalent experience to the President's Cup clash between the US and the rest of the world in non-Ryder Cup years.

It is also right and proper that such an event should honour Ballesteros and it should be a key European Tour priority to make sure this match continues to satisfy both roles regardless of boardroom politics.

If they're not sure, they should just ask Rory McIlroy.


  • Comment number 1.

    Highly impressed with the showing from the GB & I team. We have a lot of good golfers hitting excellent form at the right time. McIlroy and McDowell must surely now be forerunners in Monty's mind, and I was vastly impressed with Chris Wood's performance - a player who I have been very skeptical about in recent years. I also think we can probably say with confidence that unless Poulter qualifies he will not be playing in Wales next year.

    McGinley is unlikely to make the team, though with some decent form who knows, but his skill and management qualities must surely put him in Monty's mind as an assistant

  • Comment number 2.

    Well done GB&I! I think Monty misses the point a little when talking about Poulter and the other stay aways in the 2 teams. What benefit is there in Westwood, Garcia et al playing in this event? We know what they're capable of in the team events.

    It's a great week for the young potential Ryder Cuppers like McIlroy, Wood, Dyson and which tests thier mettle without the overwhelming pressure that the Ryder Cup brings with it.

    McGinley must be a lock for vice-captain next year, (then maybe leading the team Back in Europe in 2014?)though i guess he'll be trying his hardest to get in the team.

  • Comment number 3.

    Fair enough to extol Paul McGinley's virtues, Iain, but there will be competition for RC Captaincy in 2014 with M-A J, Bjorn, Clarke and, presumably, Karlsson also of Captaincy age.

    More important right now is: Who is going to be Monty's "pointman" for the Euros playing primarily on the PGA Tour? Faldo was manifestly out of touch with his European-based team members; let's hope Monty doesn't make the same mistake in reverse. Not sure who a suitable candidate might be though. Parnevik? Maybe even Luke Donald if he doesn't make the team.

  • Comment number 4.

    You ask any american or europian player what they would rather win. A major or the ryder cup and 99.9% will say a major. Great golfers are remembered by their achievements in majors. I like the ryder cup but to me its just a fun event

  • Comment number 5.

    A bit of an over reaction, I think, although I do think McGinley would be a very popular captain with the players and he's a super fella to depends on how you decide to pick a Europe it seems to have been to pick the best European golfers and make them captain whereas with McGinley it would be a deviation from that as his record as a golfer wouldn't have him in the class with his peers eg Monty, Stenson, Karlsson, Garcia, Jiminez,Westwood etc etc...........
    Do we decide on changing our policy them?........why not?
    Completely agree with the sentiments of Olympicdreams, when a players career is over, it's more about majors and individual events that will be their legacy.............the Ryder Cup must be a hugeley exciting event to play in and it's a great event, but it's not or ever will be as important as a major.............

  • Comment number 6.

    I enjoyed watching the coverage over the weekend and seeing all the players on both sides, and their respective captains, thoroughly enjoying themselves and the team environment. I must admit that the outcome surprised me (although Europe did come back in the singles). It was good to see the competition played the way Seve intended it - as a means of giving some of the less experienced players a taste of what competitions like the Ryder Cup are like. It definately worked with Rory! I didn't miss seeing the likes of Poulter, Westwood and Garcia going through the motions, as they almost certainly would have done.
    There will always be the so-called purists like Olympicdreams and Limerickjohn who only seem to enjoy interminable strokeplay, but some of us actually enjoy watching the variety of team matchplay (we can relate to it as well as its a format we play a lot - at least, I do) and are eagerly anticipating the Ryder Cup when Monty and the troops bring the cup home.

  • Comment number 7.

    The "Seve Cup" was entertaining and I enjoyed watching it despite the one sided result. It still remains a good competition for the golfers to get used to the format of foursomes and greensomes in preparation for the Ryder Cup. We (europe) needed a competition similar to the american's presidents cup.
    The standard of golf was very impressive with the irish lads leading the way. I was equally impressed with the response of continental Europe on the Sunday singles, particuarly Anders Hanson demolition of Nick Dougherty 7 and 6. Now that was some excellent golf. Was he 10 under through 12 holes? It's not difficult to see some of these players pressuring the more established (absent!) for their positions in next years team. Monty will hopefully have a few good choices for his wild cards.
    Looking forward to the 2010 Ryder Cup!!

  • Comment number 8.

    I completely agree with Olympicdreams. I think far too much is made of the ryder cup. I enjoy watching it as a fun event, but it doesn't prove whether europe or the US has the best players. When the ultimate pressure is on, in the majors, the americans are far better. Harrington aside, europeans have been in the running for majors time after time, and have always fallen short. In 20 years time, no one will remember who won the Ryder Cup in 2006 or 2008. But I will always remember the name of a major winner (even if it is Lucas Glover or Stewart Cink).


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