Ian Poulter believes next year’s Ryder Cup will turn into a David and Goliath clash between rival captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson and he is backing Europe’s skipper to come good against the American great.
Poulter, whose remarkable display of putting inspired Europe’s comeback win over the United States in Illinois in September, feels McGinley, 46, will have an advantage over eight-times major winner Watson, 63, because he is close to his team.
“In many ways, he will know his players better than Tom will know his, if for no other reason than he is a lot younger and so much closer to them in terms of playing,” Poulter wrote in his column in the new edition of Golf World magazine.
“That may prove a big advantage. He will know what makes us tick and what we like – that’s healthy.
“Tom, because of his age, will inevitably be slightly more detached from his team. He won’t have played as much with the current crop of players.”
The 37-year-old Englishman said he was delighted when McGinley was announced last month as the successor to Jose Maria Olazabal as captain.
Irishman McGinley was given the nod by the European Tour’s 15-man Tournament Committee after they had also discussed the relative merits of Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and a trio of Scots in triumphant 2010 skipper Colin Montgomerie, Paul Lawrie and Sandy Lyle.
“In the end common sense prevailed because it would have been very unjust to have given the job to Colin,” said Poulter.
“While of course Colin was influential in our victory [in 2010], to give it to him again so soon would have been a reaction to Tom Watson’s selection and I think it would have been the wrong reaction.
“Paul may have only played in three [Ryder Cup] matches but we are never going to find a captain in Europe whose stature, record and career can begin to compare with Tom Watson,” added Poulter.
“We have to look at it as a bit of a David and Goliath affair. No one is expecting Paul to go toe-to-toe with Tom – he can’t – Paul just needs to be Paul.”
Poulter said there could have been a mini-revolt among Europe’s players if McGinley, who has been a skipper in the Seve Trophy team event and a vice-captain at the last two Ryder Cups, had not got the job.
“It would have upset a lot of people as well as some of the players – and that becomes a very dangerous thing to do,” said Poulter, who had a perfect 4-0 record as Europe won at Medinah by 14½ points to 13½.
“It is going to be such a close match, the last thing in the world that Europe needs or wants is to start the week with a few players not in the best of moods.
“As players, we thought Paul was the best man for the job and that’s why many of us made a public stand for him in the days leading up to the decision, because we thought it was the right thing to do,” said Poulter.
The next edition of the biennial Ryder Cup will be held at Gleneagles in September 2014.