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September 23, 2014
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Paul, welcome back. Thanks for coming in again. I suppose thoughts now that the troops are assembled and now playing golf. What's the mood in the camp from last night into this morning.
PAUL McGINLEY: It's a lot warmer in here than it is out there. Yeah, today, obviously first practise rounds, first look at the golf course for most of the players, well nearly for all of them. A couple played a few holes yesterday but it was only a few. Playing in threeballs, because I want them to get around quicker. I don't want them to be out there for 6 1/2 hours like it was at Medinah. Hopefully get around quickly, have a look at the golf course, give some feedback. Not that there's much that I can do now at this stage in terms of course setup, but I think they like it. I think Scott and his team here, Scott has done a tremendous job with the setup of the golf course, greens, fairways, tees. The rough is a little thicker than we would have liked it, but I think that's down to the warm Scottish September that we've had, along with some heavy showers. So overall, should be very good. Today is just about getting a feel for the course.
Q. When you spoke last week or two weeks ago about an inspirational speaker, you said it would be someone we would all know. We've seen someone we all know walking around with Gordon Simpson today. Are we reading too much into that?
PAUL McGINLEY: No, I mean, look, he's a guy that I played with in the JP McManus Pro-Am about 15 years ago, and he's a guy that I've seen now and again over that time, and when I became captain, for a number of reasons, I asked him. Of course he was more than willing to help. But the one thing he asked me to do was keep it really quiet. And walking around with Gordon is not keeping it quiet, is it, when he's onsite. I've asked everybody to keep it as quiet as we can, because it's been my wish and his wish to keep things quiet. We want a bit of surprise for the players. But I guess it's not a surprise. A lot of people have said it to me this morning.
Q. And he's a particularly good fit on Scottish soil?
PAUL McGINLEY: It's not just that. There's a number of reasons. Although I'm not a Man-United fan, as everybody knows, I'm a West Ham fan, but I've always loved the way his teams played. And there's a number of things that he's dealing with that he was particularly good at that I think he'll be a particularly strong fit. There's a lot of similarities, and I've met him a number of times over the last few months. The more I've met him, the more there was just such a natural fit. But the players don't know. It's amazing. Everybody seems to know except the players. I've been trying to keep it quiet. I mean, Alex is particularly keen on keeping it quiet, but I guess that's not the case anymore (laughter).
Q. How well have you gotten to know Victor, and what challenge, if any, does his shyness pose in trying to bring him into the group dynamics?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, it's a challenge. Every player is different. You know, not everybody is Ian Poulter. He's a challenge, as well, too, for a different reason. My job as captain is to get to know each player, what makes them tick, what their personality is, what their background is. I like to get a real good profile of them, their family background, where they live, how they live their life and how they play golf and that all hopefully makes me make good decisions. At this time last year, although I had played with him a couple of times, I couldn't say I knew him. But when he came in second in the Match Play, having lost in the final and having won in Turkey last year, he came on my radar and I made it my business to get to know him over the last six months which I think I have done. He's a really great guy. I like him. I think he's got flair. I think he's got charisma. I think he's got Hollywood looks. He would do just as well in Hollywood as he would on the golf course. There's something special about him and I kind of like that fact that he's different.
Q. Going back to the surprise --
PAUL McGINLEY: It's not a surprise (laughter).
Q. Can we take from this that Sir Alex has also helped you in terms of managing a team and managing sports people? Have you bounced things off him in that regard?
PAUL McGINLEY: We met a number of times over the last few months. I met him initially 15 years ago, whenever the first J.P. Pro-Am was on, and I met him a number of times over the last few months. We've had lunch, no more than that. Haven't went into massive detail. He's asked me a lot of questions and I've given him some interest, and I know he's very keen and looking forward to tonight. He's a big fan of golf, as we know. He knows Rory very well, obviously, and Rory is a big Man-United fan. Not everybody in the room is a Man-United fun, so that should be a bit fun. But this is not about him being a headmaster and coming in and preaching to them. This is about fun. The areas that I'll be talking to the players about, him relating it to football and getting some football stories. So very much like to think that we're both coming from the same direction and he's talking along the lines that I'll be talking this week.
Q. You might have touched on this a bit yesterday, could you just talk about the tunnel a bit, about the idea, how it came to you, what you think it might bring?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, the tunnel, it's unique when you've got to cross the road to get to the first tee. It was a grey, miserable tunnel that you often have for carts to go under. We obviously wanted to bring that to life. I'm very keen on the players walking to the first tee rather than being there in a buggy, although some may choose to be so. I think it's important to walk to the tee and we want to bring it to life. The other side of the tunnel, where the crowd are looking down to, we've got flowers on either side. And to be fair to America, half of it is red and half of it is blue. That's just it really, just kind of bring it to life and just an extra little dimension of getting to the first tee. A bit like gladiators walking into the arena as you walk up that hill coming out of the tunnel, and the crowd will get a glimpse of them from the huge stands that are there and the hospitality, it should be an electric atmosphere.
Q. Can you tell us your thinking of the dynamics of the three balls today, in particular the Stevie Gallacher group?
PAUL McGINLEY: I wouldn't read into today because today is based on six guys doing media. We had six guys do media early this morning. Of course I've got an eye on potential partnerships over the next two days as well as today, and I'm playing guys with guys they could be partnered with and you'll see that tomorrow and the day after and it will give you some ideas to the way I'm going. But it won't be anything unusual that you're not expecting.
Q. Over the years Tiger played The Ryder Cup, if somebody knocked him off, it was a polarising moment for you guys. The U.S. is kind of looking at Ian and Rory as those guys here. How much of a challenge is it for you to get off to a fast start and not let them become a rallying point for the U.S.?
PAUL McGINLEY: The two guys earned that reputation. They have played so well. Rory, to be No. 1 in the world, and Ian Poulter with his performances in The Ryder Cup; it's not something that we should be afraid of or embarrassed about. They have earned those positions and they've earned that. I can tell you one thing, it's a real motivating factor for both of them that they know that it's a big focus on the Americans playing them. I think Rory has handled the expectancy on him as world No. 1 incredibly well. A lot of the tournaments he's won, he's won from a commanding position. He seems to be very comfortable when he has the favourite tag. I have no worries with Rory from that side. Ian Poulter is the same. Every Ryder Cup, you go in and you question is Ian Poulter going to perform, and he does. His record is sensational and he's very proud of it, very proud of that, and he's motivated this week obviously. It's not something we are afraid of. It's there. It's obvious and it's one of the perks of the job.
Q. God forbid, but if you were struggling after the first sessions, would you consider bringing Sir Alex back in?
PAUL McGINLEY: I don't think his golf would be up to the standard, I have to say, but I can say he's a very keen golfer. He watches a lot on TV. He knew a lot about the players, and he'd watched them and observed a lot of them and was very keen on getting to meet the ones he had not met. And of course the players are mad about football, every one of them.
Q. In your mind, what makes a good pairing for Friday and Saturday, and how much do you use interpersonal chemistry versus how the game is fit and how much do you use statistics?
PAUL McGINLEY: It's a mixture of all those things to be honest. Statistics is a sounding board. It's not the be-all and end-all. I'm aware of it, but it's a small percentage, 10, 15 per cent maybe of the decision making. The big decision making is gut instinct, pairings that have worked in the past, dynamics that have worked in the past, and obviously the golf course setup, as well, too, is important when it comes to the foursomes. So I'm looking at all of those things that you said.
Q. In 2012, we saw the Americans cut down some trees and make other alterations to the course there. I'm curious what tweaks you have made, and what advantages stylistically, or even just differences, do you think The European Team has versus the Americans this time?
PAUL McGINLEY: Well, I'd like to think I'm playing it very straight back this week when it comes to the course setup. I've aligned it very much with The European Tour setup that we play on The European Tour. Now, my observations and also that play the PGA TOUR, as well, too, in general we have narrower fairways in Europe than you do on the PGA TOUR. In general, we have a little bit more rough on The European Tour than you do on the PGA TOUR. And in general, your greens are quicker and faster than we have on The European Tour. So our European Tour setup is very similar to what we have here. I think to be honest, the rough is a little thicker than ideal, but it is what it is. That wasn't a calculated decision. We wanted to get the rough up, but I think the growing season of September has made it a little bit more thicker and longer than we wanted. But it's still extremely good and it's not something we are disappointed with. It's very much in line with The European Tour setup. I haven't gone out of my way to trick things up.
Q. You've talked this year about a template of European success with maybe your own identity to it. What would be your loose definition of that template, and how much of it do you think kind of emanates back to when Sam was captain in 2002?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, the template is huge. It's a wide template. There's big parts, big components in that, and natural pairings are a big part of it. The attitude that we have in the team room that's obviously very private and confidential, that is a template that, again, what I see my role doing as captain. I said it the very first day I became captain, I don't see myself as a maverick. I see myself as a guy who has been very lucky to ride shotgun on a lot of success, both as a player and vice captain. I've learned a lot from the captains I've played under and been vice captain. This is not a time for me or Europe to have a maverick captain. It's a time for me to go in, identify the template, which I'm very in my own head, enhance it and try to make it better, roll it out again and then hopefully you hand it over to the next captain when he comes into position, whenever that may be.
Q. Obviously you are concentrating on this team, but as a Dutchman, I have to ask you this, how close was Joost Luiten to be on this team and what do you think of his win in Wales?
PAUL McGINLEY: Joost Luiten was very close to the team, and unfortunately in the summer period, he didn't have a very strong summer. Fortunately he came back with a great win this week. He's a guy I have no doubt in my mind will be a Ryder Cup player and a great Ryder Cup player, too. I love his attitude, I love his game and he's certainly one for the future. I'll be very, very surprised if he doesn't make a Ryder Cup Team very shortly. He has all the attributes.
Q. Graeme McDowell was in here just now and we were talking to him, and he was talking to us very eloquently about his fortitude. Few men have hit the first tee shot, won a Ryder Cup and are prepared to do it again and indeed looking forward to it. He said, interestingly, it's where you want to be, but when you're there, it's where you don't want to be. Can you just talk about his fortitude?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, he's got a big heart, a big, big heart, we know that. He obviously doesn't have the biggest golf game of the 12 players on the team. I mean, Rory quite clearly has that. But he makes up for it in other ways. He's got a huge heart. I think anybody in this room who knows golf, we all know golf and the word that will come to mind when Graeme McDowell is mentioned is heart. I know The Ryder Cup at the start of the year, in fact more than the start of the year, was very much on his agenda. And to a large extent, he has tailored his schedule this year to make this Ryder Cup Team. He put himself behind the 8-ball in the middle of the summer because his schedule was a bit thin compared to other guys. But when the question was asked, he went with five or six Top 10s in a row right in the middle of the summer, including a win in the French Open to put himself on the team. He's going to be a big player this week. He's got a lot of experience under his belt, and you know if you've got Graeme McDowell on your shoulders as a partner, you're in a very strong position. He brings a lot to the team, a huge amount to the team.
Q. We hear a lot about the importance of making good pairings. That means there must be bad pairings, too. I wonder if you can talk about what a bad pairing is and what you want to avoid.
PAUL McGINLEY: That's a really good question. And sometimes, a team goes out and they lose, and that mightn't be because of a bad pairing. It could be because you played against guys who played really well. I remember the first Ryder Cup I played in, I played with PĂˇdraig, and we played -- I could be incorrect on this, but I'm pretty sure it was Jim and Stewart Cink, and we played really well. But we got beaten 3 & 2. But we played really well. And I had my first Ryder Cup match and I couldn't wait to play the next one. Sometimes when you're playing at the very, very top level in golf, you can go out and you can get beaten. This is what can happen. It doesn't mean necessarily it's a bad pairing. Those guys played particularly well that day against us, and they had the lowest scores of anybody that day and we just ended up getting beaten. That's not a case of ripping up that template. You put a lot of effort into that pairing, for a number of reasons you put them together. That doesn't mean you rip it up and start again. It's important, one of the big things that I've learned over The Ryder Cups is not to overreact to any situation, whether it be good or whether it be bad. You've got to be cold and calculated in your decisions. A bad pairing, if there's no connection between the guys, obviously that's a problem, a personal connection. I think that's important. You've got to be comfortable with the guy you're playing with. You've got to like him. You've got to like his caddie. There's got to be a dynamic going on, and there's got to be that X-factor between the two of them and their games have to complement, obviously, if it's foursomes.
Q. Apart from the fact that they won, what was it about Alex Ferguson's team that you admired and what did you see in them?
PAUL McGINLEY: We'll talk a little bit more about that tomorrow to be honest. I don't want to steal his thunder and talk too much about him. I'm give you more insight after he speaks to the players. There were a number of dynamics that particularly were in play with him and why I sought him out, and I knew he had time, as well, too (laughter).
Q. Past European captains, there's a tradition of bringing in speakers from other sports and dignitaries from other sports.
PAUL McGINLEY: There have been, yeah.
Q. Who have you enjoyed over the years and is there a common theme?
PAUL McGINLEY: Gareth came in with Monty in 2010, and he was terrific, being Welsh, as well, too. Now a lot of the guys, the Europeans, weren't as familiar with rugby as we are, but I thought he was brilliant. I've really enjoyed him; he's been great. Like you said, this is going back to your question earlier, this is part of the template. It's not something we're doing different. I think there's a lot to be gained. And as I say, the whole idea tonight is not to be a head master telling them what to do. He's very aware of that. Obviously I'm aware of that, too. This is relaxed. This is a conversation. There will be questions coming back at him. They all love football and a chance to spend a bit of time with one of the greats in soccer doesn't come around very often, particularly with somebody they all admire. In my dealings with him, he's been absolutely fantastic and I know he'll be great with the players.
Q. Two years ago, Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy sparked the comeback in Medinah finishing with all the birdies. Poulter said he'll deliver points for The European Team. Is he such a strong alpha male character now, that to play him with McIlroy, the world No. 1, you're putting two big hitters out there together and might that be damaging to the team? Whereas two years ago, it was the right time to play them; mightn't be now, because they are two strong players, and McIlroy in particular has come on so much, that maybe playing them together now might not be the right thing.
PAUL McGINLEY: God, you've really gone into this in depth, haven't you. (Laughter). Yeah, I mean, what I have with both players is lots of options, and I think one of the luckiest things I have as captain is I've got lots of options. I mean, who wouldn't want to play with Rory McIlroy? There's not many guys who wouldn't want to play with Ian Poulter. Not everybody can play with them, but there's a lot of guys, he gives me a lot of options. Obviously he's got great success, just look through the record books who he's played with and the success that he's had. The great thing, the big thing is both of those guys are very open and they want me to lead them where I want them to go, and as captain I can't ask for more than that.
Q. Oakland Hills, Hal Sutton at the Opening Ceremony forgot how many kids he had. Nick Faldo got some of the names of the team members mixed up. When the spotlight hits you, how are you going to deal with it? How nervous are you going to be?
PAUL McGINLEY: I don't know to be quite honest. This is a big step up for me. To be honest, it's something I haven't given a huge amount of thought to, but it's something that I'll be prepared for. I've put a lot of effort into the speech I'll be making at the Opening Ceremony. I've tried to keep it simple and keep it very much in my own words and keep it respectful to everybody. Hopefully that will come through and it's about me delivering it well. It's important. It's not the be-all and end-all. I think sometimes you can read too much into it, but it is important, and like every facet of the job, I want to do a good and professional job.
Q. Going back to the course setup, talking about it being a European Tour setup, do you have any concerns that obviously a large number of your teams play the vast majority of their golf on the PGA TOUR, and also, with respect to the course setup, do you sort of factor that in more than, say, captains like Sam Torrance and earlier guys would have done because the dynamic has changed in that way?
PAUL McGINLEY: To answer your second part first, the dynamic has changed, you're right. Now we have as many big hitters as they do. There was a time when we were straighter and shorter and they were longer and a little bit wider, but that's not the case anymore. I think if you look at the statistics off the teams now, you'll find that they are very closely aligned. So it's one of the reasons, why it wasn't a case of me trying to outsmart myself. I wanted to make sure our players were going to be comfortable, and if the Americans are comfortable, too, so be it. The first part of the question -- remind me the first part of the question? The fact so many players are playing in America. But they also play a lot in Europe. When I talk about the course setup, we are not talking about black and white. There's a very close setup there in terms of -- of course they have rough in America, of course the rough is thick in a lot of tournaments they play in America. We're not talking about fairways going from 35 yards wide in America to 20 yards wide in Europe. That's not the case. There's a lot of grey areas between them and a lot of similarities. So the Americans are not going to go look at it and think it's completely alien to anything they have experienced. The golf course is tough, it is a tough golf course. I've very much respected Jack Nicklaus and how he has come out here four or five years ago, I think it was, four years ago, and resigned a number of the run-off area, and all that kind of thing. I've respected that. I haven't asked the greenskeeper to grow those in, and I've respected the fact that he's a great course designer, and this is what he saw the golf course and we've respected that and I've done that. So you see run-off areas, but not because I've come in and said, that needs to be a run-off area. Jack Nicklaus did that. So a lot of the stuff out there has been designed by him and I'm just trying to enhance those features.
Q. Yesterday Tom Watson said that he had identified Ian Poulter or targeted Ian Poulter as the main threat in The European Team, a huge complement to Ian Poulter I guess, but what's your reaction to that?
PAUL McGINLEY: That's what happens. That's one of the fruits of all his labours in The Ryder Cup is to have a target on him. I think Ian Poulter is relishing that. He's relishing that fact. He likes playing the villain. He was the villain in America in Medinah. He was the guy they all wanted to bring down and he went out and produced, and not only did he produce Saturday night but he went out on Sunday and produced in the singles again. This is a guy that relishes this situation and relishes The Ryder Cup and he absolutely loves it. It's one of those things that comes with the territory. If you're as successful in Ryder Cups as Ian Poulter is, you're going to be a targeted man.
Q. Just related to that, I don't know if I was only slightly confused by Tom Watson saying he's going to target a player in golf, I mean, you can't slide-tackle him as far as I know --
PAUL McGINLEY: Michael Jordan did. He slide-tackled Poulter, shoulder barged him, or whatever it was (laughter).
Q. Do you have anybody that you can target? What does targeting a player actually mean? How can you target a player?
PAUL McGINLEY: I don't know. You can ask Tom that question to be quite honest. I don't know. I don't know what he means by that. I think he means the guy who ends up playing against them, and the extra onus is on them to try and beat them, I guess that's what he's referring to. I don't know. You'll have to ask Tom that.
Q. Is it a case he's trying to second guess? Say you're putting Rory out number one, he's saying he's definitely going to put Rory out number one; is that what you interpret targeting as?
PAUL McGINLEY: I don't know. Again, that's Tom. I'm going to put out the team as I see fit, and whatever comments they have and whatever ideas he has to motivate his team, whatever, he'll do. I'm concerned with our team and making sure we're prepared.
Q. I presume that means you don't target anybody?
PAUL McGINLEY: No, I'm putting out our team as strong as we can. I'm not targeting anybody on the American Team. We know they are a very strong team 1 to 12 and whoever is playing who in The Ryder Cup, this is going to be tough. We are under no illusions how strong this American Team is, under no illusions whatsoever. This is going to be a tough Ryder Cup to win.
Q. Just to save you from possible trouble, it's Michael Kim that shoulder barged Poulter, not Michael Jordan. Right?
PAUL McGINLEY: Anthony Kim? No, Michael Jordan. There was a documentary in America last week or maybe two weeks ago where there was a big talk about it, yeah.
Q. Is there a competitive element to today's three balls?
PAUL McGINLEY: No competitiveness whatsoever. Getting to know the golf course. Going out there, getting a feel for the course and giving me some feedback as to what they think about it. Obviously got a vice captain following every group, and they are reporting back to me. I'm going to go out and just Bob and we've between the groups and make sure everybody is all right and get some feedback and everybody get their feet under the table. That's what we're really trying to do this practise round, it's very important.
Q. Two years ago Ian Poulter went into The Ryder Cup in terrific form. Are we assuming too much that he can do it now even though his form is not great, and is The Ryder Cup a place where you can find your game?
PAUL McGINLEY: Well, I would argue that point. I don't think he was in terrific form two years ago, and in 2008 he wasn't in great form, either. He's a guy that seems to have risen to The Ryder Cup, and he seems also to be a guy who plays his best golf when he has a big break. He did it in The Race to Dubai last year. He had a great Race to Dubai series, having a big extended period when he went out of the FedEx early. In Medinah, 2012, he had a poor run-up into that Ryder Cup, as well, too. He didn't make the FedEx final series. If I'm correct, he didn't make that final series.
Q. He had a lot of good results in 2012.
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, his form has not been terrific this year, there's no doubt, and he would be the first to say that. But my point is that he's always been a guy, even though his form has not been terrific going into a Ryder Cup, seems to find that extra element when he comes into it, and he's also a guy that benefits from weeks off. I think in the forced weeks off he's had the last few weeks, would have stood him in good time. He's a guy that prepares well when he's getting ready for a big event, particularly The Ryder Cup.
Q. If the teams have been relatively evenly matched for many years now, the duration of your Ryder Cup experience, why do you think in your mind, Europe wins most of the time?
PAUL McGINLEY: (Laughs). There's a number of reasons, and obviously I can't go into those. I have views. I'm not privy to what goes on in the American Team room. I'm only privy to what goes on in The European Team room, and I'm really concerned about getting that template right again this time. It's not about changing it. It's about doing what we've always done. A lot of that is confidential and obviously I don't want to say that and give a heads up to anybody and I'm not privy to what goes on in America. But I am privy to what goes on in ours, and we're doing what we've always done. We're going at it again, and I'd like to say, I'd like to put a little bit of a cherry on top, a little bit of icing on top and roll it out for whoever the next captain is.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: We'll let you go and do that, Paul. See you tomorrow.
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