Paul McGinley aims to get back in tournament swing

Paul McGinley's mind has been drifting when he's been on the practice ground. Picture: Phil Noble/Reuters
Paul McGinley's mind has been drifting when he's been on the practice ground. Picture: Phil Noble/Reuters
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Victorious Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley admits he has no idea how he will perform when he returns to action in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this week.

McGinley’s golf game has been on the back burner since he was made captain in January 2013 – the 47-year-old’s incredible attention to detail in the role meaning that he even ensured the fish occupying the tank in the team room were in European colours.

A shoulder injury has also contributed to the Dubliner playing just once on the European Tour since July, but he is set to compete in the pro-am event played over the Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.

“I’m not tired and I don’t feel like I want to pull away,” McGinley said after Europe’s five-point win over the United States on Sunday. “I think it’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed the ride the last 18 months. It’s been an absolute thrill and a privilege and an honour.

“The Dunhill is a tournament I’ve always enjoyed playing, I love playing on those golf courses. God knows where my golf game is. I feel like there’s been no work gone into it in the last six months.

“Everything the previous captains have told me about your golf game struggling has been proved correct. The first year was not so bad. I played quite well last year to be honest. This year it’s really tailed off.

“When I’ve been on the golf course and on the practice ground, my mind has been drifting. It’s not been there and I’ve not had the intensity and concentration you need to practice and play.”

Four of McGinley’s team are also in the field this week, world number one Rory McIlroy, US Open champion and 2010 winner Martin Kaymer, France’s Victor Dubuisson and 2004 winner Stephen Gallacher. Vice-captain Padraig Harrington, who won the event in 2002 is also competing, as is last year’s winner David Howell, who beat American Peter Uihlein on the second hole of a play-off.

Meanwhile, Lee Westwood has unsurprisingly added his voice to those backing Darren Clarke to be Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain.

McIlroy has already said he feels Clarke would be an ideal captain in the US in two years’ time, and the former Open champion’s friend and long-time stablemate Westwood agrees.

“It’s about the right time in Darren’s career to take up the captaincy,” Westwood said. “He is very popular in the United States and I think he would make a good captain.”

Clarke is odds-on favourite to lead the European side at Hazeltine in 2016, although his strained relationship with McGinley may have a bearing on the selection process.

The 46-year-old sent McGinley a letter in 2011 supporting his bid to become captain in 2014, but later changed his mind and also put himself forward for the role.

And when Tom Watson was named US captain in December 2012, Clarke suggested 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie should also be considered as ‘’whoever it is standing on that stage opposite Tom Watson needs a huge presence’’.

Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson could get his wish after Paul Azinger said on Monday that he was open to a second spell as US Ryder Cup captain.

Mickelson caused controversy on Sunday when, within two hours of the United States suffering a third straight defeat in the biennial contest, he criticised the approach of captain Watson.

With Watson sitting just a few feet away, Mickelson – who had been left out of a full day’s play on Saturday for the first time in ten Ryder Cup appearances – stated his support for the methods of Azinger, who skippered the side to their last win at Valhalla in 2008.

Asked if he would captain the side again, Azinger told American media: “I’m not going to rule anything out.”

Azinger, 54, said the US needed to move away from appointing “lone wolf” captains, instead copying the European model of selecting players who had experience of the Ryder Cup as vice-captains.

He added: “The PGA of America (which appoints the captain) has officers that move up the ranks, getting sage advice along the way, and many of them stick around and keep offering advice.

“The PGA of America should recognise their business model is exactly the same as Europe uses in selecting a captain.

“There is a razor-thin line between winning and losing these matches. Europe gives itself the extra one per cent chance to win through its business model and cohesiveness.

“Even if you play blackjack perfectly in a casino, the casino still has a very slight edge. Right now Europe is the casino and the US is the guy walking to the blackjack table with a fistful of fifties.”