In 2014, Paul McGinley delivered one of the best ever Ryder Cup captaincy performances.
In an exclusive interview with Peter Masters, the Irishman reveals his winning secrets.
1 One of the reasons Europe does so well is that we have a succession plan.
All our captains have been vice-captains first. Nick Faldo and Monty weren’t vice-captains, but they were Seve Trophy captains, which is much the same thing.
That experience is vital and it stood me in great stead. My two Seve Trophy captaincies gave me a lot of confidence. It’s daunting the first time you address your peers so it’s good to get it out of the way.
2 There’s no one way to captain a Ryder Cup team.
We are consistent in a number of ways, though, which is important. I don’t want to give the Americans too much of a heads up, but the European players know what our success template is.
More than anything else, it’s an attitude that is handed down. Every Ryder Cup I’ve been involved in, there’s been a great atmosphere behind the scenes. That comes from the captain. I didn’t reinvent the wheel as the captain, but I certainly took the template and enhanced it.
3 We’re on the crest of a wave in Europe.
The big difference between us and the Americans is that our top players deliver every single time and theirs don’t. The Garcias, Westwoods, McIlroys – before that it was the Montys and the Faldos – produced a huge haul of points and the American big players haven’t done that.
4 Captaincy is a full-time job.
You have to represent the Tour, but also there’s the research.
I went in for that and spent a lot of time analysing what I had and where the partnerships would work. I loved it. There wasn’t one day when I felt I’d had enough.
5 I paired players in Tour events, without them knowing, just to see how they got on and how well they performed in that company.
I was controlling the draws in the summer before the Ryder Cup just to see what happened – not just between the players, but how well the caddies gelled. Nobody knew that except me and the tournament director David Garland.
The Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson was the main partnership to come out of that, but there was Lee [Westwood]and Jamie [Donaldson] as well. It was mainly for the rookies’ benefit.
6 We won the afternoon sessions in the foursomes 7-1 at Gleneagles. There were two reasons for that.
The first was that we got the pairings right by placing a bigger hitter with a shorter one. I’m a believer in horses for courses. At Gleneagles there were four par 5s, three of which were even- numbered.
You had a driveable par 4 that was also an even number, so I made sure the big hitters played the even holes. Graeme was able to get up in two on the 2nd, for example, off Victor’s drive. He wouldn’t have been able to do that playing his own ball.
I’d worked on pairings for months to ensure that we hit the ground running when we arrived at Gleneagles.
7 Having a fifth vice-captain hadn’t been done before.
At Medinah, José Maria had to go in early at a critical stage to let the four guys in the clubhouse know what the plan was for the afternoon. I thought this is so big now, we can’t leave anything to chance.
It’s very important that the guys who have sat out the morning feel they are vital to the team and very much involved. Psychologically, it was important to have someone with them, for them to be prepared and ready as ‘the second wave’ for the afternoon play.
8 I wanted to wear the Americans down over the three days, session after session – a wave after wave approach where we never let them off the hook.
That was just one of our mantras. It was nice, in the press conference afterwards, to hear the players repeat all the things we’d talked about over the week.
9 There’s no such thing as a perfect captaincy. I don’t think I handled the Stephen Gallacher situation as well as I might have.
Lee and Graeme were both great at playing with rookies, but I went with Ian Poulter and it didn’t work.
I feel I let both of them down. Stephen made the team at the last moment and I could have been better prepared in terms of finding a partner for him.
He played so well in the singles, but came up against an inspired Mickelson. His attitude was amazing and he was fun to be around. He was a huge part of our success and he brought the Scottish crowd.