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Paul McGinley: the man with the magic Ryder Cup formula

Meticulous, modern, inspirational: just some of the words used to describe the Dubliner’s Ryder Cup captaincy at Gleneagles.

Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

IF THERE IS a formula for Ryder Cup success, Paul McGinley is a mastermind who makes it work.

All week long, McGinley talked about Europe having a “template” for winning golf’s premier team event.

As Europe’s captain, McGinley delivered to perfection. The home team thrashed the United States 16 ½-11 ½ at Gleneagles, extending Europe’s victory run to eight of the last 10 Ryder Cups.

“We had a real plan,” McGinley said. “We had a structure. We had three or four big ideas that we kept going back to and I think they really helped.”

While US captain Tom Watson was being second-guessed for his pairings and even publicly challenged by Phil Mickelson, McGinley seemed to make all the right moves and earned the overwhelming admiration of his players.

Meticulous. Modern. Inspirational.

Those were some of the words they used to describe the 47-year-old Irishman, who played on three winning Ryder Cup teams and holed the winning putt in 2002.

“Paul is the new wave of captains,” Sergio Garcia said. “A lot more modern. Every detail, it was right there. He thought of everything this week. It was amazing.”

Lee Westwood said: “I think Paul is a model for captains going forward. I think you could base your captaincy and your future captain around the way Paul did it this week.”

McGinley was quick to deflect the credit.

“I didn’t execute the plan,” he said, sitting alongside his champagne-drinking players a few hours after Welsh rookie Jamie Donaldson hit a great approach shot to the 15th green that clinched the victory. ”

All the guys sitting at this table did. It’s easy to put in place. It’s one thing to execute. I did the easy part. They did the hard part.”

Several players, including Rory McIlroy, had lobbied for McGinley to be chosen as captain. Since getting the job 18 months ago, he traveled the world, meeting with players, former captains and successful sports coaches like Alex Ferguson to build the right structure and atmosphere.

Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, was brought in to deliver a pep talk to the players this week. McGinley used a series of motivational videos, posters and other messages to instill confidence in the team.

The players shouted out those messages at the victory news conference.

McIlroy: “Complacency. Concentration.”

Graeme McDowell: “Wave after wave.”

Justin Rose: “When the storm comes, we’ll be the rock.”

Westwood: “Have fun.”

Using Ferguson’s success at Manchester United as an example, McGinley repeatedly urged his players to take pride in being favorites and to make the most of playing at home.

“I always had the view, let’s embrace this,” he said. “Let’s not be embarrassed about it or think it’s a disadvantage. These guys here have earned to be slight favorites. And let’s embrace it and go with it.”

McGinley’s tactics and man management also did the trick.

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He took a personal role in mentoring 24-year-old French rookie Victor Dubuisson, boosting his confidence and helping him fit in with the rest of the team. McGinley made a great move in pairing the veteran McDowell with Dubuisson — they won both of their foursomes matches.

McGinley sent out McDowell to play the first singles match on Sunday, a decision he had made far in advance, saying he wanted a “fighter” to set the tone.

It paid off: McDowell rallied from three down to beat U.S. rookie Jordan Spieth 2&1, a crucial win for Europe at a time when the Americans were putting up a lot of red on the scoreboard.

Amid all the celebrations, McGinley said winning the Ryder Cup as a captain doesn’t compare with winning it as a player.

“There’s nothing like the adrenaline of walking to that first tee with the home support bellowing at you,” he said. “It’s a great thrill and I wanted the players to enjoy that and drink it in and enjoy every moment of it because your career goes very fast.

“I’m now in the twilight of my career and I’ve loved being captain, but there’s nothing beats … what these 12 guys have just enjoyed today. There’s nothing that can compare to that.”

Asked whether he could consider being a vice captain for the next Ryder Cup in Hazeltine in 2016, McGinley was unequivocal.

“No,” he said. “I’ve done my piece.”

It’s time for someone else to execute the template.

– Stephen Wilson, Associated Press

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