If the dream of captaining Europe to Ryder Cup victory over the USA really has consumed Paul McGinley’s life, he does a fine job of hiding as much. No conversation with those who have observed at close quarters, or who know the man well, is complete without a nod to the intensity of the Irishman’s work. A danger lies therein; that McGinley may over-complicate the challenge in front of him.
At Celtic Manor this week, McGinley was a portrait of calm. Those aspects of his life that existed long before he was chosen as the European leader for Gleneagles and will remain once the dust has settled have not been disregarded totally. Far from it. So how has McGinley been sleeping? “Great, no problems,” he says. “All things are in place and all I’m doing at the moment is keeping in contact with the players.
“I’ve been great. In the last two weeks I have had one date in the diary, one company day; other than that, apart from the picks, I’ve had nothing in the diary. I had family things. I went to Ireland and watched the hurling final. I had a little bit of press but not very taxing in terms of time.
“I’ve been able to spend family time. Two kids started a new school, that took family time, making sure they were bedded in right, going to see their new teachers. That’s all good for me, taking me away from the Ryder Cup and into the big picture of life. That will give me the freshness.”
When the 40th playing of this famous old trophy is over, McGinley will apparently have little trouble in reverting to “normal” life. “I’ve lots in place, to be honest,” he says. “I’ve got a little business portfolio of companies that I’m involved in, which is going well. I’m going to have a bigger involvement in that.
“I’m really keen to get back playing again. It really itched me to be at Celtic Manor at the start of this week but not playing. I’ve been top 10 in the last two years there in the Wales Open, but I knew that I couldn’t play this week because I need to be fresh for Gleneagles.
“It’s not about me, my golf is not the priority right now. All the challenges that previous captains told me about what the role does to your game has been proved to be absolutely correct.
“Last year I coped with it pretty well but this year has been a different story. My game has actually been quite good but I haven’t been at it mentally. I haven’t had the bite, I haven’t had the concentration levels that you need to play top-level golf. My mind hasn’t been clear enough to play.
“That’s why I’ve really taken a back seat with my golf. I got injured in the middle of summer too, which was a blessing in disguise to be honest because it gave me time to come away and do a bit more things that I needed to do – keep my eyes on things that were important. Everything is geared towards the Ryder Cup, but my life doesn’t all of a sudden stop after that.”
That much is endorsed by McGinley’s name among the entries for the Dunhill Links Championship, the European Tour event that immediately follows the Ryder Cup.
McGinley need not search far for his marquee name. The captain admits to an element of concern over the and others who have bemoaned a hectic summer. Yet the world No1 appears to have been perfectly responsive in his dealings with a man he supported so strongly for the European captaincy.
“My conversations with Rory over the last 18 months have been absolutely brilliant,” says McGinley. “I haven’t over-communicated with him, I’ve given him lots of space. But when we have communicated he has been so into what I’m saying and so into giving me feedback.
“He’s a guy I really respect, forget about all his golf. I really respect the way he has respected me in my role as captain. And one thing Rory has proved in his career is that he’s comfortable being the lead man.”
The obvious lack of such a character in the USA team is a danger to Europe in itself. It may well be that in the absence of Tiger Woods Phil Mickelson’s presence in the team room is enhanced. Either way, the visitors’ threat is clear; they are underdogs with precious little to lose.
For that reason alone, McGinley’s concentration in the coming days will be essential. He will not be short of that nor, it seems, the attributes for coping with suddenly being a former Ryder Cup captain.