As I sat in my office on Tuesday and tried to catch up on a few things, the Golf Channel had my full attention as Ryder Cup Europe announced Paul McGinley as its 2014 Captain for the matches played at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland. I have to admit that was pretty satisfying to sit back in Franklin, IN and watch the festivities from across the world in Abu Dhabi and know that in some way I had influenced what was happening.
When Tom Watson was announced as the U.S. Captain last month, lots of people were scrambling with thoughts on how the Euros would counter. Darren Clarke took his name out of contention because he “didn’t want to stand on the stage next to Tom Watson.”
Conversely, Colin Montgomerie relished the opportunity. On Sunday night he said, “I’ve never canvassed, as I didn’t last time. I’ve not spoken to anybody about this. But, I’ve always felt that, if I am asked, I would do it and that’s still the case. Darren Clarke has made comments regarding the Tom Watson scenario and this meeting will contain the words ‘Tom Watson’ in it- I don’t think at the last two Corey Pavin and Davis Love were mentioned.”
Ryder Cup Europe assembles about a dozen people every couple of years and hashes out its choice on a Captain. The committee is made up of current and former European Tour players as well as international golf officials. On the other hand, the PGA of America committee consists of three Officers with the President taking the dominant role in the process.
McGinley supposedly beat out a group that included Montgomerie, Sandy Lyle and Miguel Angel-Jimenez. The committee met in Abu Dhabi and took about an hour to make what was called a unanimous decision. McGinley’s selection was aided by last minute Tweets from the likes of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, who all endorsed the first Irish born European Ryder Cup captain.
Not that the Captains ever hit a shot in Ryder Cup play, but McGinley’s playing record pales in comparison with Watson’s. McGinley has won four professional events while Watson has turned the trick 70 times. Watson has eight major championships and McGinley zero. Watson had a 10-4-1 Ryder Cup record while McGinley was 2-2-5.
In addition, Watson was a five time Player of the Year and leading money winner on the PGA Tour. Watson is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. McGinley was never a player of the year, never won a money title and his only trip to the World Golf Hall of Fame will be as a visitor. And how about this? Watson at 5’9” and 175 lbs. will tower over McGinley, a mere 5’7” tall weighing 160 lbs.
So why McGinley? Give credit to the Euros. They stuck with a system that has produced seven Ryder Cup victories in their last nine tries. McGinley has been an assistant captain on the past few victorious European teams and had success as the winning captain in the Seve Trophy matches. McGinley is likeable, humble and popular with players. He was gleeful at Tuesday’s announcement.
“I am relishing the thought of taking on one of my great heroes, Tom Watson. He’s not only a wonderful person, but a great ambassador for the game of golf. I’ve never had an opportunity to go up against him in a playing sense. To go up against him in a captaincy sense will be a real thrill for me,” said McGinley.
I’m not letting McGinley’s pleasant nature suck me into thinking that the U.S. has any intangible advantage with an icon like Watson as captain. However, when you consider that nine of the past thirteen Ryder Cups have been decided by two points or less and that seven of those were decided by a point or less- maybe old Tom can make a difference.
“Tom Watson was the right man for the job,” said Sam Torrance, former Euro Ryder Cup Captain. “He was a fantastic appointment and they (U.S.) needed to change something. No one could compete against the likes of Tom Watson. But, we are not competing against Tom Watson- it’s the two teams.”
When I got up early Tuesday morning there was already an email for me from Watson who is in Hawaii for this week’s Champions Tour event. “Ted, please call me when you know the Euro’s selection for their Captain.”
So, Watson got yet another call from me mid-afternoon on Tuesday. It was a very brief exchange. The baton went from Abu Dhabi to Franklin to Hawaii. Seconds later Watson released the following Tweet, “Congrats to Paul McGinley on your R/C Captaincy. Looking forward to our future competition. You’re a class act.”
The PGA of America congratulates Paul McGinley as Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain. I will never forget the scene at The Belfry when Paul holed a putt on the 18th hole to halve Jim Furyk, which won the Ryder Cup for Europe and his subsequent celebratory dive into the neighboring pond.
Images of an emotional Paul with the Irish flag wrapped around his body are something I will always remember. I join my friends across the Atlantic in preparing for what should be one of the greatest chapters in Ryder Cup history.
Franklin is closer to Scotland than it is Abu Dhabi. Tuesday it all seemed real close….. again.