An Interview With:
GORDON SIMPSON: It's been a very productive couple of weeks, winning in Wales, and a pretty good performance last week in Atlanta.
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, obviously I'm pleased. You're right, I've put my foot on the accelerator and it stayed down. Put it that way. I've created a big gap obviously between myself and No. 11. Full steam ahead this week, too. The job is not 100% done yet but I'm almost there.
GORDON SIMPSON: Feeling more relaxed than three weeks ago?
PAUL McGINLEY: Relaxed in terms of my position. It would take something incredible for me to miss from this stage, where I am now. But I keep saying it, Eamonn Darcy missed by a couple odd pounds a few years ago. There's always somebody, at least one person, there's always somebody who comes from far back the last couple of weeks and takes a big jump in, and I'm mindful that could happen and maybe two people could do it. So I'm conscious that I don't want that to happen to me.
So, the better I play, the more I have to do put it that way. That's all I'm concentrating on.
GORDON SIMPSON: Will you be watching the scores from the Scottish PGA? These are the people you're talking about, Andrew Coltart and Andrew Oldcorn.
PAUL McGINLEY: They have a lot of opportunities to make money, a million pounds, which is a big prize fund by our standards at this stage of the Ryder Cup with a relatively weak field with the Top-12 players over here. So, they have an opportunity, but it's not something I'm going to get overly distracted with. Here we have a lot of money to play for and the ball is in my court. I've got to play well. I'm more concerned with what I'm going to do than what everybody else is going to do. I've got a hold of the ball at the moment and just need to make sure I don't drop it.
PAUL McGINLEY: I think I played them par one day, and 2-over, 2-over, 4-over and then 3-under the last day. So I played them 1-over for the week, which was pretty good.
It was a good finish, but it was a good round of golf, and the sort of -- the finish put a real icing on the cake but I had missed a lot opportunities up to that for birdies. I played really well. Gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities. Things were not going well for me. Things were lipping out, things were not going right and I stayed patient. And all of a sudden the last few holes, I gained five shots on the field, so that was very rewarding. And it pushed me right up to 22nd place and got me World Ranking points, and World Ranking points are the big issue for me. That's something I'll be focusing on all year. If you ask me where I am in Europe, I can't tell you within three four points. I'm much more concerned with World Ranking points. That just shows the way the game of golf has gone in terms of the European Order Merit. The Order of Merit is becoming less significant, for the type of player that I am, unless you are trying to win the Order of Merit, which at the moment I am not, or you're looking to get into the Volvo Masters or you are looking to keep your card. That's what the Order of Merit is important. But for the likes of me, it is less significant now. The World Rankings are what it's all about.
Q. What's your goal?
PAUL McGINLEY: My goal at the start of the year was obviously in terms of World Rankings, was to make sure I got in the top 50, and I've achieved that, top 44. And the higher up I go, the better. As I say, I'm concerned with my World Ranking points much more than anything else. Obviously Ryder Cup, too.
Q. Should the Ryder Cup be off the World Rankings?
PAUL McGINLEY: Put it this way. If you were to ask me what's our strongest 12 players, I would say the Top-12 players in the World Rankings.
But, I understand why the European Tour can't do that because they have show some credence to the European Tour and they have to show -- they have to make sure that the guys are being loyal to the European Tour. You can't make six and six picks. That would be unfair and encourage guys to go to America and the European Tour has to be strong and stand up.
The other thing I would say if I picked 12 off the World Rankings points would be rookies like Ian Poulter would not have a chance, because I think Sergio is the only guy who has ever done it -- I know Tiger did it over here, but to go from 0 to Top-50 into two-year period is a very, very tall order. So I don't think it's right to keep out a guy like Ian Poulter who has played extremely well the last two years. So they have to find a balance between the World Rankings, which are the main thing at the moment, and captain's picks and European Order of Merit.
PAUL MCGINLEY: It's not something for me to decide; it's something for the Ryder Cup to decide. They will rejuvenate it after this year since it has shown deficiencies. The game of golf has gone on, even the two years of the Ryder Cup points. They have got to get a balance between -- the majority should be off the World Rankings, and then you've also got to give a lot of credence to the European Tour Order of Merit and you've also got to give, as I say, credence to -- what is the other thing, like Ian Poulter coming through, the rookies coming through. So you have to strike some sort of balance there and they will come up with something that will be fair to everybody.
Q. How much confidence have you gained since winning Wales?
PAUL McGINLEY: Winning was important. Winning, as I say before, winning is -- sometimes you can play great. Like I've played great a couple of time this is year. I played well in the Benson and Hedges and came in second and Loch Lomond came in third. Played good as I could play nearly but didn't end up winning because it was somebody else's week.
Winning, sometimes you can do all you can do, but it's their week, like Henrik Stevson, and Goosen did the same thing to me in Loch Lomond and he was coming off the U.S. Open win and he was flying. It was important, because the thing that pleased me most was I realized how important the difference was winning and not winning that playoff. It was 100,000 Ryder Cup points. When you are down at No. 9 like I was, that's a huge difference. The way I competed last week pleased me a lot, too.
Q. Have you ever been as positive speaking as you are these last few weeks?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, a couple of years ago we went to -- I won the OKI Pro-Am by seven or eight shots. Obviously, I was very confident there. At the moment I'm at a different level now. I'm playing in the big tournaments like this, NEC, the PGA and I'm competing in them and that's what pleases me more than anything. I'm playing at a higher level.
Q. Do you feel any sense of nervousness, you are so close to the Ryder Cup, but things might slip away from you?
PAUL McGINLEY: I have a little bit, yeah, but I'm also confident that I'm going to finish the job off. I have anticipation, I'll say it before, I'll say it again, with Darcy's situation and that can happen. And something always happens at the list of the Ryder Cup points list. If you look back at history always something, with Darcy, somebody had to finish first or second in order for him to miss and they did. That's incredible. The orders of me missing would be pretty high to be quite honest. It's very unlikely I could miss from here.
Q. You're not going fishing next week?
PAUL McGINLEY: I'm hoping to have a week off, put it that way. I'm hoping not to play next week.
But, if there's a very strong chance that I could be passed next week, I'll definitely be playing. I want to make this team very, very badly and I certainly don't want to take any chances.
Q. The American college system seems to be having an increasing influence on European golf, like in Walker Cup recently and with Colin Montgomerie. How important was San Diego in your development as a golfer?
PAUL McGINLEY: It was the make or break for me. I went into it -- I had been working in D.C. for a year before that having graduated from a college in Dublin with a diploma in marketing and I had to give up football because of my injury and I had played golf during that year I was working. And I was starting to get pretty good at it, so I had come to a crossroads: Was I going to play golf and or was I going to go into business. And at the time there was a 20% chance I'll go into golf.
So, that's why America was perfect for me. I'm able to kill two birds with one stone. I did get a higher level of education. I got my degree over there and I also played more or less full-time golf for two years competitively, and at the end of the years I was at the crossroads. I made the decision to turn pro and I've been ever since. It killed two with one stone. No question about it, anybody with talent at home, a young kid coming through, I would strongly recognize to go to the American collegiate system -- first thing would be to go to a warm climate where you can practice all year around, and secondly go to a golf school with a coach that has a good reputation. No question it helped my game.
Q. With you being paired with Calcavecchia, any jockeying for position with possible Ryder Cup rivals?
PAUL McGINLEY: Put it this way. Played with Stewart Cink last week and I was conscious that he was going to be on their team and it gives me a flavor of the standard of playing. And I'm very comfortable -- I like to be comfortable playing with a guy, not surprised by what I'm going to face. And that's why I was glad to play with Stewart Cink last week and I'm glad to play with Calcavecchia tomorrow. When it comes to the Ryder Cup, if I do play against, him I won't be surprised.
Q. If things should work out for you, do you see yourself falling back on your own past team experiences, and if so, which kind of comes to mind? And also, how much have you watched and observed over the years that you think you might be able to help your own thinking in terms of strategy and atmosphere?
PAUL McGINLEY: As I say, I'm very comfortable in a team position. My record as a team player has been very strong I think a lot of it that emanates from my years as a footballer, and hurling, an Irish game, and I played at a very high level. Even played at senior level at 17 years of age.
So, I've always enjoyed team sports. I've always been -- enjoyed being part of a package, if you know what I mean. Obviously, won the World Cup with Padraig Harrington in Kiawah and we've always performed well in the Dunhill Cup. Team sports is something I certainly enjoy and I'm looking forward, as I say I'm not there yet, but hopefully being part of another team in the Ryder Cup.
Q. You've played here once before?
PAUL McGINLEY: I played last year in this.
Q. Some years ago did you play?
PAUL McGINLEY: Oh, yeah that was quite a while ago. That was '96, '95 maybe.
Q. Where did you finish at?
PAUL McGINLEY: It was a point system. I missed the cut by a point, I remember. Missed the first cut by a point. There was two cuts.
Q. I meant the week after, did you not play here that year?
PAUL McGINLEY: No, last year was my first year at Firestone.
Q. What are your impressions of the course this year, Firestone?
PAUL McGINLEY: Pretty similar to what I saw last year. One of the best golf courses I've ever played. It's very straightforward. There's the fairway, there's the green, very long par 4s. Just a real 100% golf course. You won't fudge it around here. You have to hit a lot of good quality shots. I really, really enjoyed this tournament last year and I hope to enjoy it this year, as well. I hope my golf matches my enjoyment.
Q. What score do you think it will take?
PAUL McGINLEY: I played a practice round with Nick Price yesterday and he was saying the winner's score all the years he played was between 8- and 11-under par, and last year, what did he shoot 20-under or something? He just blew it out of the water. So you don't know. That was an unbelievable score around this golf course.
Q. Somebody asked you why you had not made previous Ryder Cup teams?
PAUL McGINLEY: I wasn't good enough. My golf game is much better now than it has been before. My quality of striking is better, my short game is better and people ask me about my improvement and basically I'm a better golfer. You can say all you want, but the bottom line is I'm a better golfer.
Q. You said, Paul, I remember at the B&H, I think you contrasted and compared yourself with Padraig and you said that two years ago, you were roughly in the same position with the 70s and he had gone on, and at that time in May, you would give or take a few in the 70s. You've done the things that you've mentioned, but how and who has helped you do the things that you've just mentioned that have made you better?
PAUL McGINLEY: Well, it's been a long process, though. It hasn't been just all of a sudden just turn on the switch. It started two, three years ago when I started working with Peter Cowen, particularly for my short game. He's improved my short game so much. Also, my understanding of my golf swing has improved a lot. Technically, I know what I do best. I know what Paul McGinley does better than I used to know what Paul McGinley did. If you asked me a technical thing about somebody else, I would struggle to answer, but I certainly know my swing a lot better than I have in the pats.
Also, my short game, when I hit a bad bunker shot, I know why I did. So I've got fundamentals now, if I go off-track I work back to these fundamentals and I know they are proven and work. So I have a ground basis now in each department of my game that I can refer to when things go right, and as a result, I'm showing a consistency. I've only missed one cut in the last 12 months. You know, that unfortunately was the K Club. I missed it by a shot. That shows you where my consistency was coming from. I have a very strong foundation. I've put a lot of effort and thought into it. It's a lot of fun reaping rewards and playing in this tournament and sitting in front of you guys at an interview at the NEC. Something I've always wanted to do and something I've worked hard to do. There's been a lot of downs, but, certainly, I'm very much enjoying it at the moment.
Q. Is it a subject among the players, what's going on with Tiger?
PAUL McGINLEY: Not really, no. Maybe the American players. I'm kind of glad he's showing that he's human. Look, everybody peaks and troughs. His trough is not really a trough. What did he finishing last week, 20th, 29th? It's not a major disaster. He's such a strong player. I said it a few years ago, the hardest thing I think for Tiger and the most difficult thing for him to do is keep himself motivated, and that's why Nicklaus was magnificent. He kept himself motivated throughout his career. It's easy to get burned out in this game, particularly at the intensity that he's playing at and the media scrutiny that he's under. The hardest thing for him is going to be not his golf game because it's better than anybody else, no question about that. But the hardest thing he's going to have to do is keep himself motivated and keep himself hungry for success. By all accounts, he's doing it, but there's going to be peaks and troughs in anybody's career, whether be a businessman, footballer or golfer. Nobody is like that in any form of business has ever been like that. There's always peaks and troughs within the overall graph, and his overall graph has just gone skyward so quickly and so highly. You can't be critical of Tiger. He's just a phenomenon.
Q. We talked last week that you wanted to play more events in the States. When you get to events like this, does that also further heighten that goal?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, I went to college here for two and a half years. I'm comfortable. Not like a lot of guys, but I'm very comfortable in the American lifestyle. I enjoy the facilities. I enjoy the -- I just enjoy the whole American society, if you know what I mean. I'm very comfortable in the environment and I certainly hope to play a lot more in the future.
The heat doesn't bother me, too, when they play in the warm climates. I'm lucky in that I don't sweat a lot. Last week I only used one glove per round. Even in that humidity and that intensity, I didn't have to change gloves three, four, five times like most guys were doing. I'm comfortable in this environment.
Q. If you won enough money this week to become a member, would you join the Tour next year?
PAUL McGINLEY: As I said before, as a family, I don't see us living here, but as a golfer, I can see myself playing a lot more over here. Somewhere around 12 events a year would be exactly what I would be looking for, based on these majors and world events.
The California swing, that's my intent to do early next year because I'm used to California. I lived in San Diego and L.A. and I'm familiar with the territory. I can see myself hopefully playing a few events in the American swing leading up to the Match Play in La Costa, which is one of our local courses when I was in college. So that might happen. I'm just going to see how my invitations will go and that's why it's important for me to April keep improving my World Rankings so that I'm in the shop window for invitations.
Q. What about the traveling to South Africa, Australia --
PAUL McGINLEY: I've done all that before. As I say, I like America and I'm comfortable here.
As I say, as a family I can't see us leaving Europe. But Ali went to college in San Diego and so she's comfortable to come over here, to rent a house for two or three months and base ourselves. But as a family, I can't see ourselves living here permanently, but that might change in the next few years. I'm not saying no for definite.