Riding shotgun set me up nicely for the captaincy

Paul McGinley believes his experience "riding shotgun" during Europe’s remarkable Ryder Cup run of success has made him better equipped to step into the captaincy role at Gleneagles this weekend.

Riding shotgun set me up nicely for the captaincy

The Dubliner, three times a winner as a player for captains Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam, and an assistant to victorious skippers Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal, feels he has gained invaluable experience to keep the winning run going on his watch as his European team bids for a hat-trick of successive victories from tomorrow. The 47-year-old’s opposite number Tom Watson, 18 years his senior, has also had a great run of success, never been on a losing side in four appearances as a play and one as captain, yet admitted on Tuesday he has not even attended a Ryder Cup since he captained the USA team to victory in 1993.

Asked if that meant advantage Europe in the captaincy stakes, McGinley said: “Well, I can’t speak for Tom but what I can say is that no doubt, I’ve been very lucky to be riding shotgun on this great ride of success we’ve had in Europe. I’ve been riding shotgun on that three times as a player and twice as a vice captain. I’ve learned so much from every one of those experiences and every one of those captains. I see the template that’s in place.

“There’s reasons we’ve been winning these Ryder Cups. We’ve come from underdog positions and won The Ryder Cups. So it’s not always that we have the best players.

“There’s a template and I see my role as enhancing that template, trying to make it better and roll it out again. The fact that I’ve ridden shotgun on that twice as a vice captain has been huge.”

McGinley believes Medinah two years ago under Olazabal was particularly important to his captaincy. “That was the first time I’ve been involved in a Ryder Cup where we were right behind the 8-ball. And to watch and observe José Maria and be sitting on his shoulder as a vice captain was a massive learning curve for me. At the time it was a horrible experience to be on the end of a walloping from the Americans, like we were the first two days. But in hindsight it was a great learning curve for me. Should a situation occur this week, I feel I’m certainly better equipped than I would have been without the experience at Medinah.”

Watson, though, refuted the suggestion he was at a disadvantage for being 21 years removed from the action.

“I’ve played in The Ryder Cup four times, and I’ve been a captain once. That’s experience,” the American veteran said during his press conference yesterday. The only thing different here, as I’ve said, is the media responsibilities. Everything else is the same. With the team, with the preparation, with the clothing, it’s all the same. It hasn’t changed from that perspective. The only big change is with you ladies and gentlemen (of the media) and the time I’ve had to spend there.”

With the youngest US player, Jordan Spieth, less than two months’ old when Watson led his side to victory at The Belfry in 1993, the captain has faced accusations he is out of touch with his players but yesterday he reaffirmed his belief that he understood and related to his players. “Because they know I’ve played in The Ryder Cup. They understand I’ve been a captain. And they know that I know what they’re doing. They have a respect for me and I have the ultimate respect for them. We’re on the same page. It’s not a question we’re on the same page. We’re professional golfers. It doesn’t matter how old or how young you are.”

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