Paul McGinley has had the unbeatable thrill of holing the putt that decided the Ryder Cup and has tasted World Cup victory as well.
But come the end of his career he wants to be remembered as someone who also won big on his own – and now another chance has come.
A brilliant 64 that was only one shot outside the record for Wentworth’s West Course has catapulted the 38-year-old into the hunt at the BMW Championship.
McGinley goes into the third round on eight under par and in second place, but still three behind Swede Peter Hedblom, who late in the day had a magical seven birdies in the last 11 holes for a 65.
Most of the crowd had gone by the time Hedblom, ranked 240th in the world and looking to continue a run of surprise winners at the event, finished at 7.45pm, but that was of no concern to the 35-year-old.
His only tour success came in Morocco in 1996, but since missing most of the 2002 season after breaking his leg playing ice hockey he has been in play-offs for the Spanish and Irish Opens.
McGinley said: “I think my career’s been great. I’ve had two great Ryder Cup experiences in extreme pressure, but my win ratio is not good enough. I’m aware of that.”
The former Gaelic footballer has played in 348 European tour events stretching back 16 years and his only titles are the 1996 Hohe Brucke Open in Austria, the 1997 Oki Pro-am in Spain and the 2001 Wales Open, an event lacking most of the circuit’s big guns and cut to 36 holes.
At 68 in the world McGinley is not yet in the field for next month’s US Open and he did not play the Masters in April.
“I didn’t even watch it – it hurt that much,” he added. “Of course I want to be part of that.”
What is pleasing him in the European tour’s flagship week is not only how he is playing so far, but how the course is set up.
“If we’re going to compete in major championships we want to be playing courses that are similar and Wentworth certainly is.
“Most of the tournaments we play are not like it and I think the future of golf should be set up along really getting the greens firm and tucking the pins in.
“Course management, strategy, good shot-making. I think that should be brought back in as opposed to rewarding brute power.”
McGinley was appalled when he heard that for the Open at St Andrews this year the Home of Golf has been lengthened by 164 yards.
“Putting 40 yards on the 14th just rewards the big hitters. The bunkers on the left are now in play for 80% of the field, but for Tiger they’re still not.”
Woods did not go in sand once when he won by eight in 2000.
McGinley was five behind when he resumed, having given himself a kick up the backside for playing so poorly in his opening 72, but he birdied three of the first six, hit a six-iron to 12 feet for an eagle at the 12th and added further birdies on the 14th, 16th and 17th.
That gave him a chance to equal or even beat the record on the 531-yard last, but he pushed his second into rough and a 10-foot birdie attempt slipped by.
Australian left-hander Nick O’Hern, 31st in the world but still chasing his first European success after five second-place finishes, is in third place on seven under, while Padraig Harrington, who pipped fellow Dubliner McGinley for the 2001 Volvo Masters with a last-green birdie, is only one further back.
And only one further back after coming close to withdrawing from the tournament because of a recurrence of neck trouble just before he teed off today.
Harrington andhis wife had dinner with the Sunningdale-based McGinleys last night, but then it was back to becoming competitors again – once the world number 10 decided to play on.
“I tweaked something in my neck and I really considered strongly not teeing it up. I started looking for anti-inflammatories and couldn’t find them anywhere. I got two aspirin and it was only with 20 minutes to go that I made my mind up.”
He added that at a smaller event or the week before a major he probably would have quit.
On a potential head-to-head with McGinley come Sunday Harrington stated: “I wish him all the best all the way, but right at the end I’d be trying to beat him just as much as anybody.”
Two other Irish players, Graeme McDowell and Peter Lawrie, had shared the first-round lead with Portugal’s Jose-Filipe Lima, but they took 76, 75 and 73 respectively.
Southport’s Lee Slattery, winner of last season’s Challenge Tour, stood over a 35-foot eagle putt on the last to tie McGinley, but four-putted it for a bogey six and round of 69.
Title favourite Ernie Els and three-time winner Colin Montgomerie had to fight to survive the halfway cut. Els birdied the final three for two under, while Montgomerie finished right on the limit of level par after birdies at the 16th and 17th and then a seven-foot par putt on the last.
Fellow Scot Andrew Oldcorn, who followed Montgomerie as champion in 2001, was only one off the lead after opening with a 68. But he is not even around for the weekend after crashing to an 82 – and has still to make a cut in seven starts this year.
A delighted Hedblom said: ``There were not that many people watching me, but I felt good and it was like a nice walk.
“I’ve been struggling on the greens, but I started to hole some and sometimes things just run your way. “Hopefully it will continue for the next two days.”