As a stellar cast prepare to take centre stage at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship this week, Paul McGinley will no doubt be casting his mind back to this time last year when he was named European Ryder Cup Captain for The 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles Hotel.
Chosen by a panel of his peers, the Irishman has been busy ever since as he makes sure everything is to his liking, both on and off the course, in the build up to the matches to be played on the PGA Centenary Course from September 26-28.
McGinley’s first task as chief was to make his own amendments to the qualification criteria for his 12-man team, namely adding a third Captain’s pick at the expense of a place on the European Points List, meaning four will qualify from that side, as well as a further five from the World equivalent.
Some eight months later, McGinley, a three time winner of The Ryder Cup as a player, got the aforementioned qualification process underway as he struck the opening tee shot of the 12 month campaign at the ISPS Handa Wales Open, held at the last European Ryder Cup venue, The Celtic Manor Resort.
Just a few weeks later the Captain was centre stage once more, starring alongside his American counterpart, Tom Watson, as part of the Year to Go celebrations at Gleneagles.
The two-day event showcased everything Scotland will have to offer when the golfing world descends upon its shores this September, and featured travel on a specially commissioned steam train, visits to local schools and towns, as well as a gala dinner, a special evening with the Captains, and a meeting with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.
Not a lot of time to relax then, and after a quick break over Christmas McGinley is back in Abu Dhabi and as busy as ever, just nine months away from one of the biggest challenges of his career.
“It’s been a busy year but a really good year,” said the man who sank the winning putt on the 18th green at The Belfry in 2002. “I think there has been a lot achieved in terms of preparation in a number of areas, both logistically away from the venue and in terms of arrangements at the hotel itself. So I’m very pleased this far.
“We also had the Year to Go celebrations last September which was a whirlwind of activity leading up to it, as well as during the three days themselves, so I think that gave me a very good idea of what the intensity is going to be like during the week itself.
“Now we are into the actual Ryder Cup year, the communication with the players is starting to grow a bit more but I will let that grow naturally over the next nine months. I am wary of having too much communication with them because they all know what they are doing – I’ll just let them evolve into their respective seasons which will hopefully bring success in Major Championships and such like.”
Following on from the Miracle of Medinah is no easy task, but McGinley seems up to the challenge, and as someone who is still very much part of the Tour, he is ideally placed to oversee things as the season unfolds.
The four time European Tour winner qualified successfully for all three teams he played on, which makes him ideal to advise those battling it out for a place on his team in 2014. McGinley has also learned from some of the best Captains the European team has had – namely the victorious Sam Torrance (2002), Bernhard Langer (2004) and Ian Woosnam (2006) – as well as under Colin Montgomerie (2010) and José María Olazábal last time out in the role of Vice-Captain.
“It has been a very enjoyable year so far – a steep learning curve in places I will admit – and I have put into practice a lot I have learned from previous captains because I’ve been very fortunate to play under and be involved with some great captains,” said McGinley. “I know it is said a lot, but it is the truth, I have benefitted from them all.”