All the chatter in the build-up to this week’s clash between Europe and the United States at Gleneagles has centred on whether the Irish duo would still be a good fit, due to McIlroy’s ongoing legal dispute with management firm Horizon, with McDowell’s business relationship with the same company dragged into the claim and counter-claim.
McGinley yesterday dismissed that as a reason not to pick the pair when the 40th Ryder Cup gets underway on Friday but instead suggested they might not be a good golfing fit.
The legal wrangling, which has now gone to mediation, was “not an issue”, McGinley said during yesterday’s opening press conference at the Scottish golf resort, a joint affair with opposite number Tom Watson.
“It’s not been an issue for me in terms of Ryder Cup captaincy since, over the last year, certainly, since these court proceedings started,” said McGinley.
“Both of them have assured me all along that there’s no issues, and that’s the way I’ve always seen it. Whether they come together or not is another story. Three or four months ago, I had a very strong view that they would have been, but the more I look at their statistics and the more I look at the different value I have with them, I’m thinking there may be a value in not doing it.
“But if I don’t do it, it certainly won’t be because of any issues. As both of them have said, there are no issues between them and both of them will be happy to play together but it will be my decision ultimately.”
McGinley’s caution is understandable on inspection of McDowell and McIlroy’s record together in two Ryder Cups. The Dubliner had been the captain who originally paired the Portrush golfer with the kid from Holywood at the 2009 Seve Trophy at Saint-Nom-la Breteche, getting three points out of a possible four from the partnership.
Yet their return from six matches together at Celtic Manor in 2010 and Medinah two years later has been less stellar, and McGinley hinted they may be of better use to him as senior partners for less experienced players. McDowell successfully paired with Ryder Cup rookie Jamie Donaldson at the EurAsia Cup in March, winning a fourball and foursomes match for Europe while French debutant Victor Dubuisson has been mentioned as a potential partner for either Irishman.
“I’ve got lots of options with them,” McGinley said. “But if I don’t decide to play them, it would be for tactical reasons.
“They have played six Ryder Cup matches and they have only won two together. It’s not like these guys are written in stone. They are not a formidable foursome — not a formidable fourball pairing that’s unbeatable. Having said that, there’s no reason they wouldn’t play together.
“They were paired, and when I was captain of the Seve Trophy, I had them paired together and they played very well in that. So I’ve got lots of options with them but it doesn’t have to be that they have to be together.”
Whoever world No. 1 McIlroy is paired with, McGinley insisted the reigning Open and PGA champion would be ready for action after an active time for the 25-year-old in what was supposed to be a week off after the FedEx Cup finale.
“I don’t have any concern,” McGinley said. “He hit balls yesterday and got a real good break away from golf. Resting doesn’t always necessarily mean lying in bed for the week or lying by the pool for the week. I think getting out and doing different things he’s been doing, having fun, like going to the [George Groves] boxing match the other day, and doing that Goals on Sunday yesterday for Sky, as well, too, those are things he enjoys doing. He arrived yesterday, had a nice session with his coach and again this morning, so he’s fresh, he’s ready.”
McGinley was due to spend last night with a first team meeting since the 12 Europeans gathered at Gleneagles, McDowell the last to arrive yesterday afternoon. And the captain revealed that whatever words are spoken in the European team room, the last message his players will see will be the words of his late coach Bob Torrance.
“It’s just a simple message. It’s the last message they see before they leave the locker room, and it’s a quote from Bob Torrance, who unfortunately passed away a couple of months ago, as we all know. He used to say to every player on the range as we walked to the first tee, he would shake your hand and say, ‘Happiest days of your lives’.
“And that’s the quote, that’s the last thing they will see as they leave the locker room.”