Don’t call me Captain Perfect

Paul McGinley flees from the idea that he was the perfect captain or that he has turned the Ryder Cup into a poisoned chalice for his successor.

Whoever gets the nod early next year — Miguel Angel Jimenez and Darren Clarke appear to be the clear front-runners for the job at Hazeltine in 2016 — it will be impossible foreither of them to replicate theMcGinley formula.

That’s not because they can’t come up with inspirational graphics for the team rooms or call on motivational speakers such as Alex Ferguson, or find five great vice-captains. Or count on Rory McIlroy.

Clarke or Jimenez could do all that but they will always be lacking that vital ingredient — they are not Paul McGinley.

For all the talk of the European template, McGinley took what he saw were Europe’s strong points and gave them a McGinley spin, imprinting his personality on the set up having already been dealt “a great hand” in terms of the players at his disposal.

His wildcard choices turned out to be spot on for the way he wanted to go about sending the United States home in disarray. But he’s adamant that we should not expect his successor to follow in his footsteps.

After all, Clarke and Jimenez could not be more different to the Dubliner in personality or the way they think about the game.

“A new captain will come in and whoever that captain may be, they won’t see the job exactly the way I have seen it,” McGinley explains following a busy morning at Denis O’Brien’s Quinta do Lago complex in Portugal, where he has just unveiled the stunningly redesigned North Course in collaboration with American architect Beau Welling.

“It is quite clear that people have different views on what captaincy is and I am not going to be the guy who says you have to do this or you have to do that, because there is more than one way of winning a Ryder Cup.

“Yes, I’ve done it and I’ve done it my way. But that doesn’t mean that if someone comes in with a different view, that that’s the wrong way.

“I don’t want my captaincy to be viewed as the perfect captaincy. It was perfect for me. It was perfect for me and my personality and who I am. It might not be perfect for somebody else.

“Whoever is going to be the next captain, it is going to be a great honour and they are going to come in with a lot of energy and vibrancy and captain as they see fit.

“It won’t be for me to tell them what to do and I’d like to think that just because I did it this way that they have to follow that.

“That is the advice that Jose Maria [Olazabal] gave me. When I would ask him about this or that he’d say, ‘Paul, what do you think? What do you want to do?’

“And that’s what I would say to the next captain, whoever that may be. Do as you see fit and don’t try to copy somebody else because ultimately, you have to buy into what you are doing.

“You have to be doing what you believe is the right thing to do, not because somebody tells you and somebody has worked that way before. It’s very important that you stay true to yourself and do your own thing.”

The Dubliner is loathe to add his 10 cents’ worth to the painful postmortem taking place in the US and the severe criticism being meted out to Tom Watson following Phil Mickelson’s open attack on his leadership.

Nor does he want to talk about his cool relationship with captaincy candidate Clarke, given that he is a member of the five-strong committee that must choose the man to lead Europe in 2016.

A few hours after our interview, the Tour’s Tournament Committee met in Vilamoura to decide who would be their spokesman on the five-man panel that will select McGinley’s successor.

It was decided that the three previous European Ryder Cup captains — McGinley, Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie — and chief executive George O’Grady, will be joined by David Howell, who is no longer managed by the same company as Clarke and therefore not in a conflict of interest.

McGinley says he hasn’t thought about who might be the best man for the job but when asked about the perception that Jimenez’s English language skills might be a drawback, he did not hold back in defending the cigar-puffing Malagueno, who was one of his five assistants in Scotland.

McGinley says: “There’s a huge amount going on. A huge amount. And he never misunderstands what you say. He is never there going, ‘What? What?’

“But listen, I am not going to go down that road [of talking about the future candidates]. But I can tell you right now, I have never had a problem understanding Miguel’s English. His English is perfect, it is just like a thick Kerry accent.”

As for the soul-searching in the American camp following yet another defeat, McGinley insists that rather than losing interest in the Ryder Cup, they will be even more determined to win it back in Minnesota.

“American interest is going up. American blood is boiling more and more,” he says. “Show me one statistical piece of evidence that is showing that the Ryder Cup needs an America win? There is nothing. Revenues are going up, TV audiences are going up.

“They have lost eight of the last 10 and they are hurting and a lot of the stuff you are seeing is a lot of hurt American pride and that’s understandable.

“I don’t believe for one minute the people who say the Ryder Cup is going to go downhill because the Americans are going to get fed up losing. It’s the absolute opposite.

“You can be very sure that they will regroup and galvanise themselves and come out with a very strong product in two years time.

“But I can tell you, we will be ready too. We will have a very strong team.”

As for the man who must fill McGinley’s shoes, that’s a story for another day.


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