After the USA announced Tom Watson as their captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, European golf fans were on the edge of their seats, waiting for the Players Committee to chose Watson’s counterpart from this side of the pond.
Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Monty were all in the running but the committee have made their decision and gone for McGinley who of course has had plenty of success as a player in the Ryder Cup – McGinley holed the winning putt at The Belfry in 2002 – and as team captain in the Seve trophy.
The 46-year-old from Dublin will become the first Irish Ryder Cup captain will succeed Jose Maria Olazabal in the position and will be under pressure from the get got after the Miracle in Medinah last September.
McGinley’s winning putt at The Belfry in 2002 was the Irishman’s undoubted Ryder Cup, and probably career, highlight but he was also part of the winning teams in the USA in 2004 and the K Club in 2006. As well as playing in three winning sides McGinley also acted as a captain’s assistant at both Celtic Manor in 2010 and Medinah last summer.
Commenting on his appointment, McGinley said: “I’m obviously very pleased to be in this situation. This is a position that I’m really thrilled to be in, and it’s also a very humbling experience. I can’t wait to get into the role of being the captain.
As previously stated McGinley will be facing off against the legendary Tom Watson, a man who has the respect of the entire golfing world and certainly of the Irishman.
“I’m relishing the thought of taking on one of my great heroes, Tom Watson. He’s not only a wonderful person abut a great ambassador for the game of golf. I’ve never had an opportunity to go up against him in a playing sense. To go up against him in a captaincy sense will be a real thrill for me.”
For weeks it looked like McGinley was locked in a head to head duel for the role of captain with Your Golf Travel Ambassador Darren Clarke but Clarke withdrew from the race after an upturn in his on course form.
Clarke played well and secured good finishes in both the Thailand Golf Championships and the Australian PGA towards the end of 2012 and after another solid performance in South Africa last week, he admitted he still harboured hopes of rediscovering his Open Championship winning form and qualifying as a player for Gleneagles 2014.
Monty was then McGinley’s main rival for the role but having already captained a Ryder Cup side in 2010 – many believe the Ryder Cup captaincy should be a onetime privilege – the Irishman appeared favourite, especially when you consider the Dubliner received widespread support from prominent members of the European team who triumphed so spectacularly at Medinah. Rory McIlroy led the charge and was very vocal in his support of McGinley and both Luke Donald and Ian Poulter also leaned in the Irishman’s direction.
After hearing of McGinley’s appointment, McIlroy went so far as to tweet: “Common sense prevailed in the end…. Paul McGinley 2014 European Ryder Cup captain!!! Couldn’t be happier for him… Roll on Gleneagles.”
Some sections of the European support had questioned why there were only two candidates after Clarke pulled out of the race, with the likes of Miguel Angel Jimenez, Paul Lawrie and most notably Sandy Lyle being mooted as potential future captains.
However it now appears these names were also taken into consideration. Thomas Bjorn, who is Chairman of the European Tour’s tournament committee, revealed to reporters that Montgomerie had not been the only other name discussed with all three of the previously mentioned names being thrown into the hat at various stages.
McGinley may not have the high profile enjoyed by some of his rivals but his popularity with the players, as well as an outstanding record in the Ryder Cup, both as a player and member of the back-room staff, were too significant to ignore.
“We made the right decision, our players on the Tour wanted us to make this decision and we listen to our players and that’s who we represent,” Bjorn explained.
As McIlroy said, or tweeted rather, roll on Gleneagles!