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September 24, 2014

Paul McGinley


PAUL SYMES: Paul, as always, many thanks for joining us again. The guys got in there morning and had some complementary things to say about Sir Alex last night. Perhaps you can give us your take and what sort of impact it had?

PAUL McGINLEY: Personally I think it went very well. He was exactly who I thought he was going to be. I communicated with him quite a lot over the last 19 months or whatever it is since I've been captain. We've met three or four times. We spoke on the phone a few times and he's been involved with me personally right from pretty much the start of my captaincy. So he's been working on last night for a long time. He addressed the caddies, as well, which was very important. I wanted them in there, as well, too, because I knew the banter would be good. And coming from a dressing room of a football team, obviously he connected very much with the caddies, as well, too, and their sense of humor. I was upstairs -- we were upstairs having a rules meeting at the time and even though it was one floor down and five rooms across, I could hear the laughter coming up, and I knew what it was, that he was in there with them before he come up to the players. I think it went very well. He had some very powerful messages that we had agreed he was going to be talking about, and relating of the football, but it was all at the same time it was a bit of fun, it was a bit of banter, there was Q&A and it was very relaxed.

Q. After two or three days of this, I guess the only question I have is: Do you ever get mad?
PAUL McGINLEY: (Chuckles). Of course, everybody gets mad. Of course. I mean, yeah. But I feel I'm well prepared for this week, put a lot of effort and work into it. I like the guys, which is a real advantage. I know them all very well. The guys I haven't known well, I've made it my business to get to know well since they became, like Victor, for example, I've got to know Victor very well over the last eight months and it's been a real fun experience getting to know him.

Q. Have you ever in your experiences in a Ryder Cup, have you ever gotten irritated, either in something in the team room or at other players on the other side?
PAUL McGINLEY: Well, I've been very lucky. I've been involved in positive experiences in The Ryder Cup, very positive experiences: Great teammates, great captains and great experiences in terms of winning. So it's been easy to be in good form and it's been easy to be enjoying it. But like I've said so many times, there's something about being involved in the team that excites me, that brings me to a different level, that creates different feelings for me; that sense of bonding, that sense of camaraderie, that humour in the dressing room that we talked about. All of those things elevated me to play really well in The Ryder Cups that I played in. Now I've got a huge honour to be the captain and I'm enjoying the role.

Q. Is your plan for Friday now set in your mind, and have your plans for the first day changed at all since you've had the guys here this week?
PAUL McGINLEY: We're pretty much -- pretty much where I am. As I said, a skeleton plan, pretty much on target with that skeleton plan. Meeting with the vice captains today at two o'clock and we'll solidify that going into the final practise round tomorrow. Yeah, we're pretty much on schedule where we need to be. It's been great. It's been great. The interaction from the players has been great, and the caddies, as well. Caddies have given me a lot of information and very much on side, and I've obviously kept them very much a part of what we're doing. I've enjoyed the humour like we always do. That's one of the great things about a Ryder Cup is that sense of fun that we have behind the scenes.

Q. Do you think it's an advantage that you've been to every Ryder Cup in recent memory, whereas Tom hasn't actually been on site for 20 years at a Ryder Cup?
PAUL McGINLEY: Well, I can't speak for Tom. But what I can say is that no doubt, I've been very privy and lucky to be riding shotgun on this roller coaster -- it's not even a roller coaster, on this great ride of success we've had in Europe. I've been riding shotgun on that three times as a player and twice as a vice captain. I've learned so much from every one of those experiences and every one of those captains. I've got to know the players really well. As I said yesterday or the day before, I see the template that's in place. There's reasons we've been winning these Ryder Cups. We've come from underdog positions and won The Ryder Cups. So it's not always that we have the best players. There's a template and I see my role as enhancing that template, trying to make it better and roll it out again. The fact that I've ridden shotgun on that twice as a vice captain has been huge. And like I said yesterday, I think Medinah was a big learning curve for me. That was the first time I've been involved in a Ryder Cup where we were right behind the 8-ball. And to watch and observe José Maria and be a little bit involved with him and be sitting on his shoulder as a vice captain was a massive learning curve for me, a huge learning curve for me. At the time it was a horrible experience to be on the end of a walloping from the Americans, like we were the first two days. But in hindsight it was a great learning curve for me. And should have a situation occur this week, I feel I'm certainly better equipped than I would have been without the experience at Medinah.

Q. Through your experiences, you've seen various players in The Ryder Cup and how their roles have evolved. How do you see Rory's role evolving in the team since you first saw him come along in 2010?
PAUL McGINLEY: Well, it's different now. Rory played in the Seve Trophy Team when I was captain, I think that was 2009, his first Seve Trophy. He wasn't a Ryder Cup player then; Graeme was. He was raw, he was young, he was coming in. What's been great this week for me personally is he's quoted me back a couple of the things that I said to him that week. I had already kept them in my notes, because I've kept my notes from 2009 in the Seve Trophy and what I said to each player and what my role was and what my plan was and what I did. I've obviously kept all those books that I've had. I've built a little profile of things that I've said to players in the past so there's continuity in my message to them. Without any prompting, him able to quote them back has been a big thrill for me that he remembered what I said to him back in 2009, when he was kind of 40th in the Order of Merit, never mind 40th in the world, and now look at him now, top of the world.

Q. A couple of things, given the number of times you met Sir Alex over the 19 months, has he been coaching you in coaching a bit, and in what way might that have helped you, if that's the case? And have you given the players a gift this week?
PAUL McGINLEY: I haven't given a gift yet, but I will be giving a gift. I can't obviously reveal what that is. The players don't know yet. No, he has not been coaching me, but he's been sharing experiences. What's been great about my relationship with him, as I said, I met him a long, long number of years ago and met him sporadically over the last decade or so. Since I've been captain, we've gone up to Manchester a few times, went up to Manchester and had a nice lunch with him, a really, really long lunch and chats and touched base and things. What was great is he wanted me to initiate. He didn't want to come in preaching. He wanted me to initiate where I see things. That's where he started. He didn't start, right, this is what you do as Ryder Cup Captain and that's not what I wanted either. He said, where do you see this, where do you see him, where do you see that, what way do you see it. Basically, for the first meeting, I did most of the talking and he did most of the questions. And from there then he was able to roll in and say, right, this is great, this is great, this is what we do, this is what we did in the football situation, we had a similar situation there, this is what I did, this is how I handled that. So it's been a common -- a very common bond, if you know what I mean.

Q. You keep mentioning the humour that you are all enjoying. If the Ryder Cup was a humour competition, who would be your top four players, and would there be anybody in America who could compete with them?
PAUL McGINLEY: I'm not overdoing the humour thing. It's important, obviously. But there's a lot of nerves in that first tee and that first morning when we get out there. But I enjoy -- everybody knows, I played football. I played football up to the age of 19, and I was a very good Gaelic footballer and then I turned to golf. So I was late coming to golf really. Certainly if you had asked me at 18 or 19 years of age if I would be a professional golfer, no way in the world. So I come from that background of banter, of humour, of one-liners, of guys giving each other a bit of stick in the dressing room, and I can really relate to it. The Ryder Cup is no different and that's what we do. There's a lot of banter, there's a lot of fun, there's a lot of one-liners and the caddies are a huge part of that, as well, too, a huge part of it. Who specifically to call out, that's difficult because everybody is humorous in their own way. I don't think it would be fair to isolate one or two guys and not name others because everybody has their own sense of humour in different ways which is good. We all get on well and we all have a bit of banter, but there is obviously a very serious edge to this week. This is not about just getting in and having fun and having the best time of ours lives. There's a real backbone to what we're doing in terms of messages coming across.

Q. You played alongside Sergio in Ryder Cups when he was an incredibly energetic youngster. How would you describe what he brought to the team back then when he was first in there and how he has evolved since, what does he bring to the team now?
PAUL McGINLEY: Well, my first Ryder Cup was 2002. Sam was captain. And what I loved and what was so great and so innocent about Sergio, and I've always had this picture of him and I always will: He played 36 holes, and he'd come back, and there was one TV in the team room down in the corner. There was a few seats around it and he would go up the far end where the buffet was, he would get his food, he'd go down and he'd sit with his food on his lap and he'd watch the highlights. He'd just done 36 holes and he'd watch the highlight. And every time he would came on, he'd stand up and he'd tell everybody to watch the TV, "Watch this shot I'm about to play, watch this, watch this, what I did, watch the American, watch what he did after I did this." There was such a sense of fun, exuberance, exhilaration just to be there. The guy had spent nine hours on the golf course all day, and there he was reliving it all engrossed in highlights. That innocence is something that will always remain with me and that's something that I feel such a connection with Sergio for that because he was so raw back then. His game was obviously not as developed as it is now. He still has that exuberance, not to the same level, but he still has that exuberance, which I really like about him, that sense of humour and exuberance.

Q. Now has he matured to take that kind of role --
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, he's a senior player. He's a senior player now. He's got a big golfing CV behind him. He's been around a long, long time and he's a hell of a player.

Q. You've touched on this a bit already, but would you say there's a surprising level of looseness to The European Teams that have enjoyed this run, and if so, can you trace it back to when it started and how important it is to the success of the team?
PAUL McGINLEY: When you're winning, it's easy to have fun. The Americans were really bonded. The American Team I thought at Medinah the first two days last year, particularly, were really, really strongly bonded. I think they were flying. I think Davis Love did a fabulous job with them. It's easy, when things are going well, it looks like you're bonding and the other team are not. In terms of the other part of the question, going right back and we have a big, big photograph of them in our room, I won't reveal which one it is, but it's a really tender photograph of Tony Jacklin. And for me he was the start of the template that I'm talking about. It's evolved over the years. We've made some mistakes, we've learned from them and we've gone forward. Tony Jacklin for me was the start of that template, and he's got quite a strong presence in our team room for that. Yeah, that's kind of where it started.

Q. Wondering how the rookies are getting on, as a Welsh girl, in particular, Jamie Donaldson, is he settling in, playing well?
PAUL McGINLEY: He's playing really well. He's on a good roll on his game at the moment. He's had a great season. US PGA this year, I had a chat with him in the caddie room in the cart barn underneath Valhalla, he had just come off the 18th green. If he had of got up-and-down, he would have been a Ryder Cup player. He didn't. He knew he had to make 20-odd-thousand Euros in the next two events. He was pretty distraught. I had a good chat with him. We talked about it. We come up with a strategy of what he had to do to make the team. I didn't want him to miss the team. He had been in it all the way from the start. I'd communicated with him. I said, "Jamie, at this stage, don't let yourself fall out. It's very important you stay in there. It's going to be difficult for me to pick a rookie. You really have to do something special to pick a rookie and I can't have you in the team all the way and then falling out. The ball is in your court. You have to make 20-odd-thousand Euros in two events. Basically, we communicated. I said, "Look, let's just forget about it now, go away, cool down, let's talk about it in two days' time and I'll give you some idea then as to what's best for you." We had a real good chat. He was a lot cooler when we spoke on the phone. We come up with a plan and the plan was that he was going to play Czechoslovakia. He went out there, and he played very aggressively and ended up winning the tournament. I know that was a huge psychological boost for him, to be able to make the team and to be able to burst through the line the way he did.

Q. Rory indicated that he's probably going to have a new driver in the bag this week. Given the way he's been using the one that's been in the bag all season, does that concern you at all? Does it surprise you?
PAUL McGINLEY: Doesn't concern me at all. I trust Rory with his decisions. He spoke to me and said first thing when he got here, "I've been testing something new, this is where I'm at with it, do you have any problem?" I said, "Rory, I don't have any problem. You make your own decisions. You have your own team around you. You are the best player in the world, you make your own decisions and I'm not going to influence that." I'd never dream of giving a player a lesson or telling them what to do. They make their own decisions, they're top players and that's why they are here.

Q. Anything you've seen from Ian Poulter that makes you confident he's going to become superhuman again in this arena?
PAUL McGINLEY: Just the fact that he's Ian Poulter and he loves The Ryder Cup. He's great. The crowds are giving him a great reception every time he walks onto a green, which I think is a great testament to him and for what he's done for them as fans of Europe over the last decade or so as a Ryder Cup player.

Q. Now that we're here and it's actually happening, what's it like to be taking on a legend of the game like Tom Watson, and your reaction to that? Is it what you expected it to be? Do you find yourself pinching yourself? Do you feel his equal?
PAUL McGINLEY: What I see myself at the moment, honestly he was my boyhood hero growing up. I was a huge Tom Watson fan and I still am. When I was a boy in San Diego, at college and university out there, I used to work the range and the guys used to always cover for me when Watson was playing a practise round. Huge thrill for me when I finally got to play with him for the first time at Atlanta Athletic Club in a practise round. I think the words he said to me when I asked him could he join me was, "Irishmen are always welcome in my company." Those words were just so heartfelt and it was great. It was a great time, and we've gotten on very well since. He's a guy I have a huge respect for as a human being as well as everything else, as well as his playing record as I got to know him. In terms of what he's been doing this week, I haven't really been paying attention. I'm more concerned with our team. I've got a lot of things on my agenda, I have 12 guys going on, 12 caddies, five vice captains, a lot of people, a lot of information that I'm processing at the moment. In regards to what Tom is doing with the team, I don't even know what groups he's going out with. I just know he's going to make some good decisions and he's going to have a strong American Team out there and we are going to be prepared for that.

Q. You talked about the notes that you had kept and taken as a vice captain and as a captain of the Seve team. I wonder, did you take notes as a player?
PAUL McGINLEY: No, I didn't. Only technical notes and mental notes myself of my golf game, but certainly not in Ryder Cups about what the captain did or what he said, no. Those mental notes are up there. They're experiences, they're feelings. I saw Pierre Fulke out there today. I haven't seen him for ten years maybe, since he left Tour. I think it's ten years since he left Tour. He's working for Swedish TV. The moment I saw him, we had a big embrace in the middle of the fairway. That's what's great about The Ryder Cup. That's what real bonding is.

Q. I know you talk about the template and I'm sure that there is one, but does the template make the men or do the men make the template?
PAUL McGINLEY: Oh, that's a good question. Have to think about that. I think the template evolved, for me, as I say, Tony Jacklin started that. He moved things on to a professional level. He flew Concorde for the first time. He made sure The European Tour opened the coffers and invested in the players. He made sure they wore cashmere sweaters and their clothes fitted. He made sure he had everything they needed to have. So he started that template. And what's happened, other captains come in after Tony, and they see what he's done, they see things that work, the little things like the cashmere and the Concorde, obviously continued. And then they put a little bit of enhancement on that and how they see things and then they hand it over to the next captain. And it's just a ball rolling and hopefully getting better and better, particularly as we're winning. Now sometimes we make some mistakes and we have to come back and we have to reassess and then we go forward again. And that's what I see. And hopefully my job is to, well, not hopefully, but what job I see doing from day one is I'm not changing this template. A lot of the things I'm doing was started by Tony Jacklin, and that presence of mind. He's a guy I've spoken to at length, as well, really picked his brain and really see where he's coming from, and I learned a lot from having chats with him.

Q. I suppose what I'm saying is about the players. In other words, if the players don't buy in and they don't have a certain character or an ability, as you said, to embrace that, it would be hard to make the template work, right?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, absolutely. And I think we've been blessed. We've had some huge personalities in the team room which have been great. Obviously Lee was a big presence in the team room. Monty was tremendous. Absolutely so much respect for Monty and what he did and his presence in the Ryder Cup teams I've played for, and Sergio, as well, has been a huge part of the present day template of the one I've been involved in. Before that, obviously Seve and Ollie had a huge part that have and we still have a part of that now with Ollie and he brings a bridge and dimension back to those times when we won The Ryder Cup for the first time on American soil in Muirfield Village. So there's a bridge and there's a connection and we're moving forward collectively.

Q. Could you give us an example of the banter between Sir Alex and perhaps a couple of the questions that were asked and what he said back?
PAUL McGINLEY: Let me see, I don't want to give too much away, because there are a lot of tactics talked in there. Even though the banter was there, there was a lot of tactics talked and a lot of the messages were very clear and common in line with what we had. Just to give you one little message -- well, I don't want to give too much away. I can answer that much better on Sunday because there's some messages that he came across on and great images in the room that were very pertinent to what he did at Man United and what we are trying to do here, as well, too. Sorry, if I can answer that on Sunday I'll be happy to give you a little more insight, I'm sorry.

Q. Are you taking the Fifth?
PAUL McGINLEY: There's a lot of tactics and strong messages there. When it came to the banter, obviously a lot of stick to Ian Poulter being a big Arsenal fan. But the biggest stick was Thomas Björn being a Liverpool fan. That gave him a lot of pleasure having a go at Thomas but Thomas held up for himself, that was really good. Billy Foster right now is a big Leeds United fan, and I think Sir Alex said to him that 17 players he got from Leeds to end up at Man United, and that bit hard when Billy had a go. Billy let him know what he thought in no uncertain terms. I think the caddies enjoyed that that he was standing up to Alex Ferguson in this room full of all his peers. It was just a bit of banter, and in fairness to Sir Alex, as I say, he's used to this; and he's in the dressing room and he's in that banter all the time. This is very normal for him. And in some ways, I'm sure he felt very much connected back with the football dressing room; I don't know, you'd have to ask him that.

Q. In terms of the rookies, are any of the other players, any of the players who might be feeling nervous, are you good at detecting nerves in your players? And can you do anything about it, or to a large extent, do they have to find their own way through it?
PAUL McGINLEY: Nerves are a great thing. If you're not nervous playing in a Ryder Cup, there's something wrong. The excitement that I always had; of course I was nervous. Of course your stomach is turning. But it's also incredibly exhilarating, incredibly exhilarating. The feeling; I envy those players walking off that practise round, walking through that tunnel, to see all those images of all the players from both sides; and then walking up the other side, and when the crowds see them as they walk up like gladiators into the arena, what a thrill that's going to be for a player. At the time their stomach will be turning. At the time they will be incredibly nervous. But I'll tell you what, afterwards, they are going to remember that memory for the first of their lives. So nerves could be a very positive thing. These guys are all well clued in in terms of nerves. Everybody deals with nerves in their own way. They have all got great CVs. Otherwise they wouldn't be here, and there's only so much I can do to help them. And a lot of it is, I stand back. They know what to do. They have experienced big occasions themselves. Okay, the Ryder Cup is a step up for the rookies, and I'll certainly be communicating with them a little bit more than I will do the rest of the players based on what to expect. But this is where the senior players are so important in the room, because they are also having private conversations along the same lines.

Q. The Americans have talked a lot about being underdogs. Do you think that's a conscious strategy on their part to try to take some of the pressure off, and if so, what does that mean for your approach?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, I don't know where the Americans are coming from. As I say, honestly my dealings are 95 per cent what we are going and what we are doing. I don't even know what the American pairings were yesterday. I don't know what they were today. I haven't really paid attention and that's honest. I'm really concerned with us. I have enough things going on here, if I start thinking over there, as well, too, I'm going to lose my focus of what I'm trying to achieve here. So I'm paying attention to that more than anything else.

Q. Obviously you can't divulge specifics, but in your head do you already know the four groups you're going to putt out Friday morning and do you already know the order? And if the answer is no, when do you think you'll finalise that for yourself?
PAUL McGINLEY: I have an idea in my head, but I will not be making any decisions without the consultation of the vice captains. We've been consulting all the time and sharing ideas all the time. As I said earlier start of the week coming in here I had a skeleton plan in place. There's always movements within that. Like all good plans it must have flexibility. So I'm constantly thinking, that's a good point, that's a good point; okay, let's put it into context of what we are trying to do here, what we are trying to achieve. So yeah, I have an idea, and the other idea, as well, too, is what rotation we are going to go out in. That's obviously a very important thing, very important thing, as well as the pairings. It's the rotation that's usually important.

Q. Tom Watson talks about redemption from Medinah. You were on the 2002 team that had part of that team got beat at The Country Club in '99. Can you talk how Sam Torrance, if he addressed the idea of any type of redemption or just the fact that they had gotten beat and how they wanted to try to handle and get it back in 2002?
PAUL McGINLEY: Well, Sam would answer that better, but he did a tremendous job as captain. And I think the big advantage that Sam had was that he was a vice captain in Brookline. And I know he learned a lot from Brookline, a huge amount from Brookline and he had very set ideas. He also had a huge advantage in so far as The Ryder Cup was meant to be played in 2001 and then 9/11 happened and so he knew his 12 players 13 months in advance of that Ryder Cup. So he was able to really get down and dirty in terms of getting his pairings right and getting his communication with the players up to speed, really, really up to speed. And like I say, he really evolved that template. He enhanced it and he rolled it out again. What I remember about -- what I remember so much about that was, I mean, for me personally, playing in my first Ryder Cup, was how exhilarating it was, so exhilarating. And Sam's charisma and Sam's love, and I really mean the word love, for The Ryder Cup, really came through to me as a player. He loved every minute of it. And that's infectious.

PAUL SYMES: Thanks very much, Paul.
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