ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Common sense prevailed. The European Tour got its act together, as it usually does concerning the Ryder Cup, and picked the best candidate to lead Europe into the 2014 matches at Gleneagles, Scotland.
Paul McGinley is the right man to lead Europe’s fortunes heading into the next match. As for the shenanigans that went on behind the scenes, only one word describes the mess that preceded this announcement: shameful.
How important was McGinley’s appointment? So important that World No. 1 Rory McIlroy turned up at the news conference to hear the good news. Can you imagine Tiger Woods taking time out of his day to do likewise for an American captain?
I think not.
“They got there in the end,” McIlroy said. “I was afraid we wouldn’t get there, but common sense prevailed.”
Earlier in the day, McIlroy lobbied hard for McGinley to get the job. He did that repeatedly in the buildup to the decision, one that took 10 members of the European Tour’s tournament committee a short hour to resolve in the St. Regis Hotel on Saadiyat Island just off Abu Dhabi.
“I have a very strong opinion about this,” McIlroy said. “Paul deserves it. He’s been a great player and a great personality for the European Tour over the years. And a great captain. I played under him at the Seve Trophy in 2009, and I thought he did a great job.”
The praise kept coming from McIlroy.
“He’s the best captain I’ve ever played under.
“He left no stone unturned, and I think he will approach it the right way.
“He’s also been a vice captain in two Ryder Cups, the two Ryder Cups I’ve played in. He’s always been very influential in the team room, always had opinions and always had great ideas.
“I would be very disappointed if he didn’t get selected. He bucks you up. He makes you feel good about yourself.”
When the top player in the world speaks, it pays to listen. However, he wasn’t the only Ryder Cup player backing McGinley. Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Luke Donald all publicly supported McGinley’s candidacy, too. McGinley, 46, of Ireland, also was the consensus choice of the European Tour’s rank and file.
In fact, these players lobbied so hard that McGinley didn’t have to push his case ahead of the other four candidates: Sandy Lyle, Paul Lawrie, Miguel Angel Jimenez and 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie. McGinley maintained a quiet dignity while rising above the shameful behind-the-scenes lobbying process that marred this decision.
“It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen and don’t talk,” McGinley said. “I knew I had the support of the players, and I felt my hand was very strong to be the captain. It was meant to be, and I felt the more I would say, the more my chances would lessen. I felt it was the right thing to do.
“I was tempted to speak up, but I’m blessed to have a great wife (Alison) and friends who told me to stay with dignity in this thing and don’t get involved.
“I believed that myself. The players were speaking for me. I had such a strong hand because the players were endorsing me, particularly Rory McIlroy. It’s a very humbling thing when the new star of world golf is coming out in your favor.”
The Dubliner’s humbleness and dignity are just the sort of qualities needed to lead Europe’s Ryder Cup effort. No wonder U.S. captain Tom Watson called him “a class act.”
The same can’t be said about other players in this drama.
Montgomerie wasn’t even a consideration until Darren Clarke lobbied behind the scenes to get his name into the frame. Clarke, who withdrew from the race this week, suggested Europe might need to pick a big personality to rival Tom Watson.
Step forward, Monty – the man who two years ago categorically stated that his tenure at Celtic Manor was his one and only time as captain. The Scotsman’s only problem is an oversized ego that won’t let him go gently into that good night.
How could Montgomerie resist the chance of two more years in the limelight – and considerable earnings – at a time when he can’t achieve center stage through his own game? And he didn’t keep quiet. Last week in South Africa, he wasted no time talking up his chances of leading the team at Gleneagles.
As for Clarke, it seems odd the way he seemed to undermine McGinley, especially after earlier promising that he would not stand in McGinley’s way.
Montgomerie and Clarke should have followed McGinley’s lead and kept a dignified silence.
Still, Europe got there in the end. The gleam in McGinley’s eyes and the pride he displayed suggests Europe finally got its man.
Europe’s chance of retaining the 2014 Ryder Cup is in the best hands possible.