GLENEAGLES, Scotland – It’s been almost eight years since Paul McGinley led his European Ryder Cup side to a comfortable five-point victory over the Americans at Gleneagles. In the meantime and today, a lot has happened for the 55-year-old Irishman, who so memorably made the winning putt in the 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry before diving into the pond facing the 18th green .
A member of the DP World Tour board, McGinley is a familiar voice and figure on Sky Sports’ London-based coverage of the Old World circuit as well as Brandel Chamblee’s latest training partner on Golf’s major championship coverage. Channel.
Overall, the Dubliner has done well.
Returning to Gleneagles for this week’s Senior Open on the King’s Course which sits next to the PGA’s centenary course which hosted the Ryder Cup in 2014, McGinley was quick to play down his chances of success this week, even before being understandably distracted by the news of Henrik Stenson’s premature departure from all things Ryder Cup. By his own estimate, Tuesday’s pro-am was just McGinley’s fourth round of golf in the past two months.
“If I make the cut this week, it will be good,” he said with a smile. “I’m broken after last week at The Open Championship. After working for NBC and Sky, I walked up the 18th fairway on the Old Course at 11:45 p.m. every night.
Still, for McGinley, it’s a place that holds a wealth of memories, most of them good. Although for this emotional soul, there is more than a hint of melancholy whenever his active mind wanders from Ryder Cup triumphs to the in-fighting that dominates professional golf today.
“Every time I walk through the doors and up to the hotel, walk down the halls, the memories come flooding back,” he says. “It was there, that’s where it was, that’s where the team room was. The hotel crèche was our team room. Great memories, but with everything going on in the world right now, there’s a bit of a sad reflection at the same time.
McGinley speaks fondly of the Ryder Cup. And no wonder. In four appearances as a player and captain, he has never been part of a losing team. All this only adds to his disappointment with the state of uncertainty that the European captaincy currently occupies. He is a man who cherishes the relationships he made during the biennial competition.
“In high-end business and high-end sport, we’re talking billions of dollars,” he says of the emergence of LIV Golf. “When the money is involved at the level it has reached, people make decisions based on that. I’m not going to ridicule Ian Poulter or Lee Westwood and everything they’ve done for the European Tour. plus, it happens in all sports, not just golf.
“Look how many football players in their early thirties go to China, Dubai or Qatar and earn a huge amount of money. David Beckham did that when he went to MLS in the United States. Golf is no different anymore. Touring used to pretty much have a monopoly on things, but now there’s a bit of competition. It’s created leverage for astronomical sums. Guys at the end of their careers get this windfall and they make decisions based on that, but they have to understand that there are consequences and the Ryder Cup captaincy is one of them.
Still, McGinley’s empathy goes so far as to have his own doubts about what he might have done in the face of a multi-million dollar offer from the Middle East.
“I’m part of the establishment,” he admits. “I don’t know what I would have done. I did well in the game, but that’s just me. I don’t think it’s my position to judge these guys. In many ways, I understand, but my point of view is the same as a lot of people. “Well guys, good luck, but don’t try to come back and play both sides.”
Enough talk though.
It won’t be long before McGinley returns in 2014, back with the men he rubbed shoulders with at the Ryder Cups. He speaks longingly of that time, of the team spirit that bound them so tightly in competitions with the big, bad Americans. Underdogs for a man, they fought for a common cause. But perhaps not more, given the extent of the schism which already divides old friends.
“It’s important to me to maintain a friendship with all the players I’ve played and coached with,” McGinley said. “We had an incredible team spirit, everyone recognized it and could see it. We had a great time as always and I’d like to think that in 2014 we brought out the best of all the previous Ryder Cups I’ve been to and showcased the players. I put them at the center of part of what I did as captain.
“Everyone says I didn’t overlook anything ‘and all that,'” he continues. “But it was just simplicity and it was clarity. It was a commitment from the heart and really got them focused. That’s all I tried to do. Yes, I was thorough behind the scenes. But that doesn’t mean the players knew anything about all of this. I did all of this. and hid it from them. They only knew a little bit about it. It was simplicity and clarity. And structured. They needed to understand their positions within the team. And what their roles were. Nothing more. That’s how I played the best.”
Great times indeed. And, sadly, things we may never see again.