Gregor Townsend on McGinley’s Ryder Cup captaincy

Paul McGinley's methods impressed the Glasgow Warriors head coach. Picture: Jane Barlow
Paul McGinley's methods impressed the Glasgow Warriors head coach. Picture: Jane Barlow
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OUR first Friday night game of the season allowed me to get along to see some schoolboy and local rugby the following day, and also get myself in front of the TV on Sunday to watch one of the best sporting events on the planet – the Ryder Cup.

The fact that the whole drama was played out amidst the magnificence of Gleneagles and the stunning backdrop of the Perthshire hills made it even more special this year. It was Scotland – and golf – at its best.

From a coaching perspective, I was hugely impressed with Paul McGinley, the victorious Europe captain. He had a clear strategy – his winning template – and his attention to detail was clearly forensic.

Themes from this template have emerged since the weekend, and they include attacking in waves, avoiding complacency and enjoying the occasion. This could equally apply to how a rugby team might prepare for a game.

Getting that winning strategy right is a major element in being successful but even more important is creating the right environment for the players to perform at their best. From what I saw at the weekend, and have since read from those involved, McGinley achieved this and had his players playing without fear and playing for each other.

Even his inspired decision to bring in Sir Alex Ferguson to speak to the players wasn’t just based on Ferguson’s motivational powers. No, he was chosen specifically because during his time at Manchester United he had made a career of winning at home, while being the favourite – two qualities that were shared by this year’s European team.

It seemed to me that McGinley had brought all the key elements of culture, history and identity together for the European team in a way that gave them a fantastic foundation and sense of purpose.

His use of inspirational material both in terms of visuals and quotes that adorned the European team room evidently had a very positive impact on his players and galvanized them as Europe claimed their sixth victory in the last seven Ryder Cups. “One particular one comes to mind is right outside our team room,” McGinley explained. “It’s a huge big one, probably two metres by three metres, and it’s a picture of a European rock in the middle of a raging storm in the ocean. The message underneath is: ‘We will be the rock when the storm arrives.’”

It’s a great message too for the Glasgow Warriors team with the inevitable storms we are likely to face over the next few weeks as we travel to play Treviso and Ulster, then begin our European Champions’ Cup campaign.