PAUL McGinley, the European Ryder Cup captain, has challenged Scotland’s leading golfers to match Ireland’s feat of providing a quarter of the team to face the Americans in a match on home soil.
McGinley joined forces with Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke as a European side led by Welshman Ian Woosnam chalked up a record-equalling 18½-9½ victory at The K Club in County Kildare in 2006.
Yesterday, on his first visit to Gleneagles since his appointment was confirmed in Abu Dhabi in January, McGinley, the first Irishman to hold the prestigious post, threw down the gauntlet to the likes of Paul Lawrie, Stephen Gallacher, Richie Ramsay and Scott Jamieson to match that achievement at Gleneagles next year.
It will be a tough task as the 1999 match at Brookline was the last time a European team contained three Scots in Lawrie, Colin Montgomerie and Andrew Coltart. Since then, a single Scot on four occasions in six matches has been the best the home of golf has managed.
However, Lawrie, Gallacher, Ramsay and Jamieson, as well as Martin Laird, are all inside the world’s top 100 at present and McGinley is hoping they are strong contenders when the qualifying race starts at the Wales Open in September.
“I would love nothing more than to have at least one Scot in the team,” said the the 46-year-old. “When we played in Ireland a quarter of the team were Irish so that’s the challenge now for the Scottish – to get 25 per cent of the team from the home country.”
It seems certain that McGinley’s backroom team will include at least one Scot, with former captains Sam Torrance and Colin Montgomerie both possibilities, along with Lawrie should he fail to retain his place in the team after playing his part in Europe’s dramatic victory at Medinah last September.
“I gave a promise that I’m going to bring a Scottish flavour to this Ryder Cup and I will do,” he added. “But, at the same time, I’m very mindful of the fact that this is not just about Scotland and it’s certainly not about Ireland even though it will be part of it.
“It’s very much about Spain, Italy and France, too, and I want those people to feel a connection with this Ryder Cup as well.
“There will certainly be a big role for Sam in that I play a lot of money games against him at Sunningdale. We are good friends and we spend a lot of time together and we’ll discuss a lot of things.
“At this moment I have 20 to 25 people who could potentially be very good vice-captains and, as it gets towards this time next year, I’ll be solidifying that.
“But, whether Sam is a vice captain or not, he will certainly be someone I’ll be seeking a lot of counsel from because I’ve learned an awful lot from him.
“He was my first captain [when McGinley holed the winning putt at The Belfry in 2002], so I’m probably going to learn more from him than anybody else – I had a really great experience under Sam.”
McGinley was one of Montgomerie’s vice-captains in Wales three years ago and, by the sounds of things, he’s not ruling out the possibility of those roles being reversed, even though the Scot was also in the running for the captaincy at Gleneagles.
“I have my own ideas but, at the same time, I don’t have a massive ego to think ‘oh he’s a bigger personality than me, I don’t want him to be a vice-captain because then he’ll overshadow me’,” stressed McGinley.
“This is about winning the Ryder Cup, having a great week and having people in the room that the players are going to be comfortable with.”