Paul McGinley’s relentless work ethic a key factor in Europe’s success
This is all becoming somewhat predictable. Brilliantly so, for those who wear the golfing blue of Europe.
Not even the appearance of the finest player the world has ever seen, Jack Nicklaus, could inspire his American compatriots towards a comeback of epic sporting scale. Tom Watson’s second captaincy of the United States will regrettably be remembered for all the wrong reasons. The record books show eight losses out of the past 10 for the USA and a 16½-11½ reversal here. They are rapidly running out of icons to turn to.
In the specific case of Europe’s triumph in the 40th , this was glory for an entire golfing continent. The cosmopolitan saw off elements of the chaotic, as one supposes it always should do.
Not only did Scotland provide the venue, it offered words of wisdom from Sir Alex Ferguson. An Irish captain, Paul McGinley, succeeded in moulding a wonderful team spirit among players from Germany, England, Northern Ireland, Spain, Denmark, France, Sweden and Scotland itself.
The sole Welshman, once again. Despite the overwhelming sense of formality, there are always such moments.
Donaldson hit an approach at the 15th to the range where his opponent, Keegan Bradley, simply picked up the ball to confirm his 4&3 defeat. “It was the wedge shot of my life,” said Donaldson. Which is no mean feat, given this marked his Ryder Cup debut. Donaldson was mobbed by photographers, family members and team-mates before reserving praise for the “sensational” McGinley.
This was never likely to be isolated sentiment. “Paul McGinley has been absolutely immense this week,” said Rory McIlroy. “He left no stone unturned, from the speakers he got in, to his own speeches to the team. Everything has tied in. I’m just so glad that it worked out for him.”
The only ripples of worry were prevalent in the Gleneagles galleries early in Sunday’s singles exchanges. Jordan Spieth raced to three up against Graeme McDowell. Hunter Mahan was troubling Europe’s man of the competition, Justin Rose. Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar led Stephen Gallacher, Henrik Stenson and Thomas Bjorn. At one stage, USA were ahead in six matches as they chased down a target of eight and a half points. They couldn’t, could they?
Of course not, as it soon transpired. The roles of McIlroy and Martin Kaymer were significant, with with a swagger which befits his status. Kaymer soon chipped in to confirm a 4&2 success over Bubba Watson.
Reed admirably did cling on to beat Stenson on the final green. However, McDowell staged a brilliant recovery to defeat Spieth by 2&1. The wins of Mickelson and Kuchar did not matter in the grand scheme, other than for Gallacher, who endured a wounding Ryder Cup on home soil. Rose halved with Mahan despite being four down after six.
Any sense of anticlimax elsewhere owed plenty to the vast superiority of the winners, a matter which should have been plain before the three-day event got underway. In McGinley, Europe had a captain who is widely recognised to have worked harder in the role than any of his predecessors.
More importantly, McGinley’s energies were appropriately channelled. So many of Europe’s team may have homes on the other side of the Atlantic but their level of motivation, camaraderie and respect for their captain left the USA team flailing around in the dark.
Whispers about the damaging aspects of Watson’s captaincy are inevitable. The 65-year-old was a bold choice by the PGA of America and, ultimately, the wrong one. Watson left his team members in little doubt, both before the Ryder Cup got underway and after a miserable foursomes performance on Friday, of their shortcomings against the cream of Europe.
will prove a damning legacy for Watson, one of golf’s most decorated figures. Nicklaus, the most successful of them all, spoke with Watson for a considerable time on the 1st tee on Sunday morning; the discussion resembled a futile one given the scale of the US challenge by that juncture.
Amid European elation, even Ferguson – sitting in relaxed form on a golf buggy – granted a live interview. In it, he played down the significance of his words to Team Europe on both Wednesday and Saturday evening.
“I just had a general chat,” said the former Manchester United manager. “I got more out of it than they did. I thought it was fantastic to be in their company.”
The European who may well cherish victory most of all could be Sam Torrance. A vice-captain this time around, Torrance had to cope with the emotional burden of the death of his father, the legendary golf coach Bob Torrance, in the lead-up to the Ryder Cup.
In Europe’s team room this week, one of Bob’s common messages hung as a poster on the wall. “Happiest days of your lives” it read. For McGinley and such a dominant group of players, they truly are.