New Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley has hailed the support of Rory McIlroy after he was chosen to lead Europe at Gleneagles in 2014.
McIlroy emerged at the back of a ballroom within the St Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi shortly after the 46-year old Dubliner was announced as the replacement for Jose Maria Olazabal.
Joining McIlroy in an unprecedented show of all-Ireland support for the first Irish-born captain in the 86-history of the Ryder Cup was Pádraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Peter Lawrie, who had been a member of the committee who minutes earlier voted unanimously in favour of McGinley.
However, while McGinley graciously accepted the congratulations of his four compatriots and friends, it was McIlroy he singled out for special praise.
The double Major winning McIlroy had been uncharacteristically outspoken the past few days in his support of McGinley including using the launch on Monday of his signing with Nike to publicly back the Dubliner.
“Having Rory’s support means a lot to me and I thank him for that,” said McGinley.
“But a number of good things happened to me in terms of getting this role and one of the facts was that Rory and Graeme McDowell played in the 2009 Seve Trophy, which was my first captaincy, as well.
“Rory was not the star he is now as it was just his second full year on Tour and I had the opportunity of captaining him in a very weakened team in terms of world rankings, so we played the roll of underdog really well.
“Rory and Graeme were huge that week and I was fortunate of having that situation where Rory played under my captaincy and it was good he spoke with such authority.”
McGinley had walked into the meeting located within another room of the hotel and, with the 12 members of the committee, asked to nominate a player.
Indeed, five players were mentioned — the Scottish trio of Sandy Lyle, Paul Lawrie and Colin Montgomerie along Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez.
With the mood very strong in McGinley’s favour, he was asked to leave the room, so McGinley returned to his hotel room where he phoned Lowry and his younger brother, Michael, to join him.
“I went to my room where I had a couple of oatmeal cookies and a bottle of water and watched the time go by very slowly I have to say,” he said.
“But I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to accept this honour to lead the European Team and obviously the strongest set of players we have had in the history of the European Tour, so to be leading the cream of the crop into a Ryder Cup is a huge honour.
“To be quite honest it is a very humbling experience to be sitting here as the new European captain and I am really looking forward to the whole of experience.
“I have been there many times as a player and also as a vice-captain and I am really looking forward to this opportunity.”
Tour chief executive George O’Grady, who sat in on the decision process, remarked: “It’s a wonderful achievement for Paul and reflects his great service to the European Tour, his standard of leadership in the Vivendi Seve Trophy and the standard of his character.”
Unlike, Monty and also Darren Clarke, McGinley had kept a low profile in the lead-up to the captaincy decision and he says it’s something that has now worked in his great favour.
“It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen and don’t talk and that’s what’s happened,” he said.
“I felt I had the support of the players. I thought my hand was very strong to be the captain and if it was meant to be, it was meant to be and I felt that the more I would say, the more my chances would lessen.
“And I felt that it was the right thing to do.
“I read and followed every word that went down the last few weeks, I have to say, and watched with interest.
“And like a yo-yo, my chances seemed to go up and down and up and down. But obviously this is a position that I’m really, really thrilled to be in.”
And one of the first to congratulate McGinley was his boyhood hero and now 2014 USA rival captain, Tom Watson.
“I congratulate Paul McGinley upon his selection as the next European Ryder Cup Captain and anticipate that his passion and love of the event will transfer to being an outstanding leader of his team in 2014 at Gleneagles,” said the 63-year old eight-time Major winning Watson.
“Paul has been connected to four winning European Ryder Cup Teams and is an outstanding representative of European golf. I look forward to sharing the stage with him as we make our journey to Scotland.”
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