ALAN Hansen, the former Scotland defender, believes Paul McGinley possesses the same qualities as Bob Paisley, the man who led Liverpool to a spell of unprecedented domestic and European dominance.
One of the celebrity ambassadors for next year’s event, Hansen knows McGinley well from the pair being fellow members at the exclusive Queenwood club in Surrey.
He is confident the Irishman can steer Europe to a third successive victory over the Americans when they meet at Gleneagles and sees similarities, in the way the three-times Ryder Cup player goes about his business, to the legendary Paisley.
“Golf is an individual sport, but the Ryder Cup is all about the team and that is why McGinley will shine as a captain,” said Hansen, a single-figure player who won the team title in the recent Ladies Scottish Open at Archerfield Links.
“I know him pretty well and we’ve played together a few times at Queenwood. Every time you meet him he’s the same. You need somebody who can bring everybody together when the chips are down. That’s a special talent that some people have. McGinley’s one of them. You can sense that just by speaking to him.
“I think he can be hard at times as well. As a leader, his strength will be bringing the team together. He’s affable, but there’s a will to win in him and his toughness will shine through as well.
“I’ve never been in a team environment with him but people who have speak very highly of him as a leader. He can mix with anybody. He’ll have everybody on his side which is a big thing in the Ryder Cup. If you have somebody in charge who can come across as a nice guy it helps.
“The best manager I ever worked under was Bob Paisley. He was everybody’s favourite uncle. But he was ruthless. When decisions had to be made, he made them.
“With Ryder Cups over the years we’ve seen how important team selections are. The best captains don’t go on reputations and that’s the same as football managers. They take advice but they make the decisions themselves.”
When Hansen first started watching the Ryder Cup, it was in the era when the Americans dominated the event against Great Britain & Ireland.
“The first one that I can remember was the famous one [in 1969] when [Jack] Nicklaus conceded the putt to [Tony] Jacklin,” he recalled.
“Then when it started to get tight after it became Europe, the event went up a level and now it’s undoubtedly one of the greatest sporting occasions anywhere.
“It’s because the Europeans started to do well. That got the Americans interested. And the last one [Europe’s record-equalling last-day fightback to win at Medinah a year ago] was probably the best ever. Just watching it was amazing.
“Watching the majors is phenomenal for a big golf fan like me, but the Ryder Cup is something else. It’s nerve-wracking. It brings me back to sitting in a dressing-room before a big game.
“When you come out on top it must be a great sense of relief. There are big sporting occasions like the World Cup, but the Ryder Cup is up there with it.”
As things stand, two Dutchmen – Joost Luiten and Daan Huizing – are in qualifying positions for next year’s team and, while there’s a long way to go in that race, Ruud Gullit, another of the recently-appointed ambassadors, is hoping to see at least one of his compatriots in Perthshire in a year’s time.
“The comparison with the Ryder Cup is similar to playing football at the highest level,” said the former Chelsea striker and manager. “It’s emotion. Everyone is really cheering when a putt goes in and you see the passion in the faces of people when that happens. The players interact with the crowd and that is the nicest thing about the Ryder Cup.
“With normal golf we don’t see that so much and maybe people think that’s boring, but it isn’t. It’s a great sport and I think it’s cool now to play golf whereas in the past it was maybe seen as a sport for old men. Guys like Rory McIlroy and now Joost Luiten in the Netherlands are good role models for young people to see that golf is cool.”