Tuesday, 30 September 2014

McGinley leads at Gleneagles

It was a great privilege to spectate at the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles at the weekend.  The setting was incredible, it was sometimes hard to take your eyes off the scenery to watch the golf!  Aside from all the brilliant golf that’s played, the great character of the players (top favourites this year were Dubuisson the Magician and Reed the Pantomime Villain), I find the battle between the two captains fascinating.  They don’t hit a drive, they don’t stand over any nervy 3 foot putts, yet somehow the work they put in before the tournament, the pairing decisions they make during the weekend and the overall atmosphere they create for the players manifests itself on the final scoreboard.  I feel for Tom Watson, the man is a legend and loved in Scotland, so no comments to make on his captaincy.  But there were lots of aspects of the conduct of Europe’s victorious captain, Paul McGinley, that I found very impressive.  First and foremost, he made an enormous effort to build strong relationships with his players over a two year time period.  Attending 25 events this year alone, he was in constant contact, sometimes over dinner with individual players, making a daily phone call to others.  In the case of the enigmatic young French debutant Dubuisson, McGinley spent 3 days at his house in France getting to know him and what made him tick.  Next, McGinley set the right tone for his team, marked as strong favourites in betting markets, by bringing in the legendary football manager Sir Alex Ferguson.  Ferguson spoke with them about the pressures of being favourites, and how they should not fear it or be ashamed of it but embrace it.  In his pairing selections, McGinley clearly had a very well thought out plan that was nevertheless flexible.  Unleashing McDowell/Dubuisson in the foursome format was a planning masterpiece, whilst accommodating the out of sorts Poulter and protecting the under pressure home player Stephen Gallacher but keeping them invested in the team goal showed a great response to unexpected events.    Finally, McGinley helped his team avoid complacency by reminding them of what had happened at Medinah when the Americans led by the same 10-6 scoreline on the Saturday evening.

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