An Interview With:
CAPTAIN PAUL McGINLEY
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much for joining us here this evening, very special evening here in Abu Dhabi for The European Tour and indeed for Ryder Cup Europe. My great pleasure to announce top table to you: In the very far side, Richard Hills, who is the European Ryder Cup Director. Next to Richard we have George O'Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour.
And closest to me we have Thomas Björn, who is of course the Tournament Players Chairman of the Committee. You will see of course there is one seat missing and I'm delighted to pass to Thomas Björn to tell us who is going to fill that seat. Thank you.
THOMAS BJÖRN: It is my pleasure to present The Ryder Cup captain for The Ryder Cup matches in Gleneagles in 2014, Mr. Paul McGinley.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much, Paul. It's been a long night; it's been an emotional night for you. Just give us your initial thoughts to appoint you Ryder Cup Captain for Gleneagles.
PAUL McGINLEY: Thank you, Scott. Obviously absolutely thrilled and delighted to have this honour. And to lead The European Team, arguably the strongest in depth on The European Tour that we've had for the history of The European Tour; and to be leading the creme of the crop in The Ryder Cup is going to be a huge honour.
To be quite honest, it's a very, very humbling experience to be sitting in this seat; and it's a week that I'm really, really looking forward to and it will be a whole experience, new experience for me in terms of being a captain. I've been there many times as a player, and also as a vice captain, and I'm really looking forward to this opportunity.
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think it's a wonderful achievement for Paul, which reflects his great service to The European Tour, his outstanding leadership in the Seve Trophy, Vivendi Trophy; and was carried by unanimous decision of the players' committee, which I think is a testament to the democracy of the process. Superb chairmanship of our chairman, Thomas Björn. Congratulations, Paul.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Now like to especially up questions to the floor. I'd just like to tell you that Paul has made three appearances being part of a successful European Team on each occasion, memorably holing the winning putt at The Belfry in 2002. He won four and a half points from nine matches, and his winning Ryder Cup habits continued when he was vice captain to both Colin Montgomerie at Celtic Manor and José Maria Olazábal at Medinah in September.
Q. Take us through the last few weeks, which has seen the captaincy debated at length, and you've said nothing.
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, I mean, I watched, just because I watch, it's amazing what you can learn when you listen and don't talk. That's what's happened.
I felt it was, I knew 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. Like a yo yo, my chances seemed to go up and down and up and down. But I'm obviously very pleased to be in this situation, and I thought that I've had a really good apprenticeships in two Seve Trophies, Vivendi Trophies, and this is a position that I'm really, really thrilled to be in.
And it's also, as I say, a very humbling experience as well, too, but it's also a situation I'm relishing and I can't wait to get into the role of being the captain, working with the players, particularly the players that have shown such huge support for me obviously in the last few weeks.
Q. Rory is only 23 but he's the world No. 1, and when he says, you're "the best captain he's ever played under," what does that mean to you, and how confident were you after that, and what does it mean to you going forward as a captain?
PAUL McGINLEY: Well, that means a lot to me. I think, you know, there's a couple of good things happened for me in terms of getting this role, and one of them was the fact that Rory and Graeme McDowell played in the first Seve Trophy, which was my first captaincy as well then, too. Rory was not the star then that he is now. I think it might have been his second year on Tour, maybe his third.
I had the opportunity of captaining him, and I knew it was a very weakened team compared to how strong the Europeans were if you compared it to World Rankings. But we played the role of underdog there extremely well, and Rory and Graeme were huge for me that week. I really enjoyed playing with them, and I think they enjoyed it, as well, too.
So I think I was fortunate that I had that situation where Rory had played underneath me and that's why I think he spoke with such authority on the subject.
Q. Could you just talk us through the last couple of hours, what it's been like? Has it been the longest two hours of your life? What have you been doing?
PAUL McGINLEY: Well, I went to the committee meeting first where we did all the mundane details of the Tour. Was asked to lead, and as The Ryder Cup was discussed at the end of the meeting; and I went to my room and my brother was up there as well, too. And I had a couple of oatmeal cookies and a bottle of water and watched the time go by, very slowly I have to say. I was looking at the clock very closely how long it was taking. And obviously delighted when the news came through. I'm absolutely thrilled.
Q. Can you tell us why you have such strong support from the players? What is it about you?
PAUL McGINLEY: I don't know. It's a good question. It's not something that probably I can answer. You know, the other players can answer that.
As I say, I've been very fortunate with the Rory instance, and Graeme, as well, too, that they have played underneath me, and so has Ian Poulter. They have played underneath me as a captain, and I think I've been fortunate that I've had that opportunity, and if there is a really good infrastructure on The European Tour, it is the Seve Trophy, it is the Vivendi Trophy and I would love to see that tournament grow from strength to strength. It is very much a part of the Seve legacy.
I can assure you one of the things I want to do as captain is continue the Seve legacy. I don't know how I'm going to go about that yet. I'll leave that for discussions later on but I will be continuing that legacy. Seve was a guy that I knew pretty well. I played under him as a captain. I've been very fortunate. I've played under if you look at all the captains I've played under, besides my three Ryder Cup Captains, I've also played under Monty, I've played under José Maria and I've also played under Seve.
So I've been very fortunate. I have a vast amount of experience playing under a Who's Who of European golf over the last decade and even more. That's all added into my love for team sports, and my love for all kind of sport that I watch as well with interest.
So I have a real passion for it and I really love it. I really love team golf, team sports, generally.
Q. You've got a history of team sports going back, you have spoke often of your history of playing football; how important is this team sport background and this experience you've gained in Seve Trophies, Royal Trophies and under two Ryder Cup Captains?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, for those of who you don't know in the room, Gaelic football is where I started. I don't know why in my career, if you look at my career, it's quite modest compared to the ex captains that we've had in Ryder Cups, and that's what very humbling for me; that I am in this position. I obviously don't match the record that they have in terms of what they have achieved in major championships and whatnot.
But what is what I did do in my career was I always performed extremely highly when I did play as part of a team. I don't know why. I wish I could have done the same as an individual. But I certainly went to another level when I played in team golf. I don't know why that is. I personally think, some psychologists might explain, back to my Gaelic football days, being part of the team, being in the dressing room, very much being put in my own corner and everyone put in their own corner.
My heart ticks a bit faster and my adrenaline goes more and I just love the environment of being in a team. Ryder Cup situations, I love the team meetings, I love everything that goes with it, the pageantry, everything that goes with it. I don't know what that X factor is but I seem to go to another level when I do play when I'm involved in team golf.
Q. Now that you've been appointed how do you see your interaction in the next 18 months with Tom Watson?
PAUL McGINLEY: First of all, I'm relishing the thought of taking on one of my grate heros, Tom Watson. I think he's, not only is he a wonderful person, but he's a great ambassador for the game of golf and has been for a long, long time.
To have the opportunity, I never had the opportunity going up against him in a playing sense, but to have an opportunity of going up against him in a captaincy sense is going to be a real thrill for me and it's one that I'm really relishing to do.
In terms of the players and that over the next year, to be honest, I won't be getting too much involved. Let them do their own thing. I'll be speaking to them obviously in general, but it's not something that I'm going to get stuck in tomorrow morning and call up 20 guys and talk to them about the Ryder Cup.
Want to let things evolve at their own speed like we have always done. I've learned a lot from watching other captains and I'll try to take a little bit from all of the captains that I've played under and observed.
Q. From an Irish perspective, it's been a long wait. You must have wondered if it might ever happen.
PAUL McGINLEY: No, I didn't wonder if it was ever going to happen. I wondered if it was ever going to happen for me but in terms of an Irish captain, no. I think we've had great success as Irish people on Tour over the last decade or so, led by Pádraig with his major wins and Darren following it up and obviously Rory and Graeme as well, too, stars of the future going forward.
I think we are very fortunate that we have an infrastructure in the Golfing Union of Ireland behind us, which we have all come through, every one of us has come through that structure. That is the foundation and that is where we have all been a product of.
And I'm the first one to hit this age where Ryder Cup captaincy is an opportunity of this era. Now, I know we've had great players in the past like Des Smyth and Eamonn Darcy and Philip Walton and right back to Christy O'Connor who played ten Ryder Cups, and Christy, Junior, too.
For one reason or another they were up against some serious contenders when their chance of Ryder Cup captaincy came along and that's why it didn't happen for them. I'm just delighted that it's obviously happened for me and all of the cards are falling in place for me.
Q. Are you able to tell us if Colin Montgomerie's name was considered? Was he asked to get out of the room at any time?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Well, I can tell you who was considered in the room or who was discussed. There was five names that was discussed in that room: Sandy Lyle, Colin Montgomerie, Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Paul Lawrie, and obviously Paul sitting next to me.
It was our job to discuss everybody that's been thrown around, and we discussed them all thoroughly. But this committee is 100 per cent behind this captain and that was really obvious very early in the meeting that this is the route that the committee wanted to go.
And, you know, I think we made the right decision. Our players on Tour wanted us to make this decision, and we listened to our players and that's who we represent.
So I think we made the right decision and we are all thrilled that we have Paul as a captain. I think that as a captain, he will bring the Tour even more together. He is one of us. There has never been a distance to Paul. He's a guy you can talk to. He's got great opinions and he's been fantastic in The Ryder Cup.
But all those names were discussed and we are happy that we came out with this choice. It's never an easy choice to make, because everybody that was discussed has all the rights to be Ryder Cup Captain, but we have to choose one and we think we chose the right one.
Q. You said that you felt that the more you said that the chances would lessen, what made you think that firstly that you ought to keep quiet, that the more you said, your chances would lessen. Did at any time if you feel, I actually should speak up?
PAUL McGINLEY: I was very tempted to be honest to speak up. I'm very pleased; I've got a great wife and great friends around me that I respect their opinion on, and those friends and Ali, my wife, told me, you know, stay with dignity in this whole thing and don't get involved. It will work in the long term for you, and that advice was really good. I believed that myself, as well, too. It wasn't difficult to convince me.
I step back and watch it grow and grow and grow on great legs; it really did, it really did become a big, big story, which is not all bad news. It's good for The European Tour that we are able to get that much attention and it's great for The Ryder Cup that there's such an interest in who the captain is going to be.
Q. Was there a time when you thought actually I should; I know I've kept quiet to now, perhaps I should say something now?
PAUL McGINLEY: There's no particular time because to be quite honest the players were speaking for me. I had such a strong hand when the players endorsing me, particularly Rory McIlroy, being as strong as he was, as I say, it's a very humbling thing when the new star of world golf is coming out in your favour. You don't need to say anything when he's saying the words he's saying.
Q. There's been a lot of vocal support in the buildup to the announcement of Paul to only being able to captain Europe once and one crack at the whip. Was there any discussion on that? Was there an overwhelming sense of support to suggest that maybe there should be just a rule that says one crack and then that's it?
THOMAS BJÖRN: I don't think we'll ever make a rule that would go down that route. But amongst those members of that committee, there's a general feel that you should have one go at it. But to make a rule would just kind of tie our hands in the future.
There's no need to make a rule like that, we don't feel. We don't feel at this moment in time. There are so many strong candidates for it, and why it's been so successful for us since 1997 when Seve was appointed captain, it's worked for us and we are hugely successful in The Ryder Cup, and why should we change the winning formula.
We felt it was important to continue down this route, but to sit down and make awe rule for it, I don't think is a route we want to go. So at the moment, we are quite happy with the system we have and it works for us. So we'll continue that rule until problems arrive.
Q. What do you think when you heard that Darren had decided not to stand?
PAUL McGINLEY: When I heard Darren decided not to stand, to be honest, I was quite level about everything. If Darren was going to stand, he was going to stand and that's his right to feel that he would like to be considered, and I didn't have a problem with that whatsoever. At no stage did I have a problem with Darren standing.
Q. Did you think obviously your chance increased when he said, I'm not standing? Was there a certain
PAUL McGINLEY: I think if you followed the paper the of the last few weeks it was quite clear since Christmas that he started that he wasn't as interested in the job as he had been before Christmas, and it was kind of a slow wind down he was doing and focusing his energy somewhere else. So I wasn't surprised, no, when he finally decided not to go.
Q. There have been reports that you would also possibly name the 2016 captain. Was that a consideration at all in the meeting?
THOMAS BJÖRN: That's never been on the table.
Q. You said you went back to your room. Can you just describe how you got the news? Did you go back into the meeting?
PAUL McGINLEY: No, a head from the European Tour came and knocked on the door and took me by the hand down. It was a long walk, I'll tell you. That corridor seemed to be never ending. Took me down to the room where Thomas met me outside the room and congratulated me and then introduced me to the committee.
Q. And George, is this the last time this committee will make this decision?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think the committee agreed that we'll look at the procedure which we do at every match, and there have been a lot of press speculation, you could say it's quite healthy.
But the way the process was conducted and the responsibility of all the players who are elected to serve all the different players, and then the chairmanship that Thomas showed, it came to a unanimous decision in the end and it was a very positive way of conducting it.
Q. I wonder if when talking about your heroic restraints, what triggers were there that wanted you to enter the debate?
PAUL McGINLEY: It's so much the same, when people had opinions I wanted to argue with them and I wanted to putt a different point across but that's all private and something that, I say I wanted to respond but I didn't want to respond through the whole media. I wanted to respond to that person and give them the other side of that argument.
So I had views, and listen, it was a strategy that I had. I thought that Ryder Cup captaincy was a very he is teamed and honour able position and I thought that it should be treated with respect and stand back; the less I said would be the better. Fortunately some of you nice journalists out there wrote some very nice articles in my favour, which kept my momentum going, and it was just interesting to see how the whole thing involved and grew legs and went forward.
The crème de la crème was the endorsement of the players. Ian Poulter was extremely strong for me, as well as Rory, and all of the guys who lined up and when I had that, that's when I felt, you know what, I don't need to speak.
Q. Given that you were in this position, would you have preferred to have been able to sort of come out and declare your hand as a candidate publically and say, I want this, etc., etc., would that have been better for you in the process if the candidate could have spoken for themselves?
PAUL McGINLEY: Remember I'm part of the process and I'm on the committee and I've been involved in Ryder Cup decisions over the last decade when we have put captains in place. It's a very, very difficult thing to do. I've been in that room, or a number of rooms, deciding on captains at some stage. It's not an easy or comfortable place to be.
I know how difficult it was going to be for all the committee members to be there and I thought that the more I said and the more I rode myself into, it might become extremely difficult. I thought one of the reasons for me to step out was I knew how difficult it was going to be and I knew it would only make things even more complicated.
Q. Could you confirm whether Colin was asked to step outside as someone who was discussed and someone who is obviously a member of the committee?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Well, it's obvious that any committee member that is proposed as a Ryder Cup Captain is asked to leave the room, and Colin was asked to leave the room, as Paul was. We had normal committee stuff to deal with before we dealt with Ryder Cup captaincy.
We do have responsibilities to our members and our tour that goes beyond this captaincy, and Paul and Colin are both a member of that committee and they needed to be there for that discussion.
But I think it's only right that when you have that discussion about the captain, that those potential captains can't be present in the room. It doesn't help it wouldn't help the situation, and we done that in the past and I think it works well for us, and we had a great discussion.
We arrived at a decision that we felt was the right decision, and I thought it might have taken a bit longer than it did, but that's only a good sign.
Q. As you say, you've got experience as a Seve Trophy captain and as a vice captain. Without blowing your own trumpet, what are the attributes you think you'll bring to the captaincy?
PAUL McGINLEY: Good question, I've got so many things, now that I can actually think about it, I've been formulating some ideas if I was to be the captain thinking about it. But I've stopped myself every time from going forward and now I can let my head go and try to evolve a lot of the things that I have.
As I say, I've been very fortunate I've played under a whose who of European golf in terms of captaincy from Bernhard to Woosie to Sam, you can go through them all right through to Seve, Monty, Olazábal.
As I said earlier, I would like to think I'm going to take a little bit from everybody. I've learned so much from all of them, as a player, and I've also learned a lot from Ollie and Monty, as well, as vice captain. I would like to think that I will take a lot of the lessons I've learned, along with some of my own ideas, as well, too, that I had at the Seve Trophy, and take those and move those forward into my captaincy.
Q. How much consideration will you be given to your vice captains and how big of a consideration will you be giving to Irish vice captains, perhaps like Darren Clarke and Pádraig Harrington if they don't make the team?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, that's something down the road to be honest.
Yeah, again, as it's come into my head I've stopped myself from going forward too much with it. I have some broad ideas but I need to evolve those ideas over time, and there will be no announcement for vice captains. No immediate need for vice captains to be announced very quickly, but I should have a good idea by coming towards the end of the season where I'm going to go with that.
Q. Can you just confirm, is it unanimous decision, but at any time was there a show of hands in the room? Did it ever get to that stage?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Never got to that. It was a discussion and it was decided unanimously by this committee that this was the route that we wanted to go.
Q. Did everyone have a say in the room?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Every person was asked. It was the first thing that was done. We went around the table and everybody had their say.
Q. Can you give us an idea of the numbers in favour of Paul?
THOMAS BJÖRN: "Unanimously" means everybody, no? (Laughter).
Q. Do you rule out playing?
PAUL McGINLEY: I think if you'd have seen me today play a practise round, you'd rule out playing.
But yeah, the chances are slim to be honest. My World Ranking has slipped over the last few years, I'm 46 years of age now and coming into the twilight of my career, still enjoy playing. I played very well for a period last year. I finished the season poorly but I had a pretty decent year for the first six months.
I'm still well capable of playing, and as Thomas knows my views, I think it's very important that we have a captain of The Ryder Cup Team who is still competitive on Tour, and that's what I intend to be over the next two years.
Q. Are you the first 'Ryder' captain elected via Twitter, the player campaign going on on your behalf?
PAUL McGINLEY: I'm not a Twit; I've never Twitted. One thing I've learned from this is the power of Twitter, there's no doubt about that, absolutely, there's no doubt about that.
I've also learned how related Twitter is to the bookies; now I know where they get all their odds from. (Laughter).
Q. You obviously would have loved to have done the job in Ireland but what does it mean to do it in Scotland, the Home of Golf?
PAUL McGINLEY: Absolute thrilled. Just think about it.
You've got okay, an Irishman, of course would be great to do in Ireland but to do it in Scotland against Tom Watson, relish is the word that comes to mind and that's what it will be. I can assure all of the people in Scotland, as well, too, I'll have very much a Scottish team to what I'm going to do that week.
We'll see. Again, I'll try to evolve some ideas over the next 12 months or so, but I would like to certainly have very much of a Scottish and a Seve theme to what we are going to do.
Q. How many minutes, approximately, were you actually talking about the captaincy?
THOMAS BJÖRN: About an hour, I would say. It was pretty short compared to the other times we have chosen captains.
PAUL McGINLEY: I've been there, long into the night.
Q. When did you ever dare dream that one day you would become a Ryder Cup Captain? When did the thought occur to you and when did you think that maybe this could come true?
PAUL McGINLEY: To be honest, the first Vivendi Seve Trophy that I did, I was chosen by Colin Montgomerie to be, along with Thomas, to be one of the captains that time. I didn't know, a, if I was going to be any good, and b, if I was going to enjoy it.
I was very fortunate, I inherited a young fellow called Rory McIlroy on my team, along with Graeme, who were the backbone of my team; and then with a lot of other players by World Ranking that were not as high as what the boys were, so they were the real fulcrum on my team. I came away from that week having an absolute blast, as much as I did when I played.
And it obviously went very well for me, too. So that was the first time the seeds set; maybe I am good, and maybe I do have an aptitude for captaining and organizing a team. That's when the first seeds of potential captaincy in Ryder Cup came to mind.
Q. How many people were left in the room to vote? Was it ten? And did Felipe have a vote?
THOMAS BJÖRN: There was ten in the room, yeah, but it never came to a vote.
Q. I assume there may have been more than ten in the room if George was still there.
THOMAS BJÖRN: There was ten committee members in the room. We don't take our tour staff into consideration.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Someone has to open bottles of water.
Q. Looking down the room, there's a few guys ready to congratulate you, how special is it going to be to see these guys in the room?
PAUL McGINLEY: Well, Rory is, as I say, Rory, thanks, what can I say, to be endorsed by Rory, particularly as I say, I've been very fortunate Rory has played underneath me and that was a big card that Rory played for me that was on my side was the fact that he had played underneath me, and he had a strong view because of that.
And he had a few that I was going to be captain, and it was it's very humbling to be honest, and not just Rory, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Justin, keep going down the line as far as you want to go. So many players came out totally unprompted on my side, and that's a very humbling place to be for a professional golfer when your peers think that much of you.
And it's the same with Thomas and the committee that they would think that way for me to be the captain, it's a very humbling place to be, believe you me, it's a very humbling place, and as I say, I'm honoured.
THOMAS BJÖRN: You'll win this week now. (Laughter).
PAUL McGINLEY: So yeah, that's where I'm coming from, yeah.
Q. You assume very relaxed and we all know how important Ryder Cup is to you; how often has it crossed your mind that if you didn't get the job this time, you may never have got the job?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, I pretty honest, I would say, if that was the case, if I had not got it, I was going to move on and do other things.
I'm in a very fortunate position, I'm not only still playing well but playing decently competitively and have a lot of business things going well working nicely in my favour, which I have a lot of things going on in my life; that my life was not going to end if this didn't happen.
And that said, I'm going to take this with both hands and grab that Cup (reaching with both hands for The Ryder Cup) and represent Europe as best I can and represent the players who have represented me so strongly to in turn, turn that support back on them and if Rory doesn't make the team, I think he's got a good chance of a pick now.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Paul, if you would indulge me one final message has come through on the Twitter, that you will get to know very well from Tom Watson, and it reads: "Congratulations to Paul McGinley on your Ryder Cup captaincy. Looking forward to our future competition. You are a class act." (Applause).
PAUL McGINLEY: Thank you. That's a very nice text to get from one of your heros. Tom Watson is a guy, I wouldn't say I know very well, I know him reasonably well. We have spent time together in our company and we have played practise rounds together.
I know he has an affinity, not just with the Scottish but with the Irish as well, too. And as I say, I'm really relishing the opportunity of going up against him. He's everything that stands good about the game of golf, and I think I will learn a lot from him as well, too.
I'm looking forward to being in his company but most of all, I'm looking forward to leading the 12 players that will represent Europe against a very strong American Team, no doubt, in Gleneagles in two years' time, and try to somehow match what we did at Medinah. And so that's going to be a great task I'm looking forward to.
SCOTT CROCKETT: From all of us in the room, many, many congratulations, you know you'll have all our support going to Gleneagles in 2014. Thank you.
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