AT Medinah, it was the spirit of Seve, coupled with Ian Poulter’s finding spirit aplenty within himself, that saw Europe come out on top. Two years on, Paul McGinley is hoping the words uttered to him and others by Bob Torrance in his gruff tones can help achieve the same Ryder Cup result.
Emblazoned above the door of the home locker-room at Gleneagles is the message that Torrance, who died earlier this year, delivered to his players every time they left him after he’d checked over the mechanics of their swing on the practice range at tournaments.
“It’s just a simple message,” said McGinley, as the Irishman revealed one of the things he’s done to get his players thinking positively for this week’s match while, at the same time, paying tribute to one of the legends of Scottish golf.
“It’s the last message they see before they leave the locker-room and it’s a quote from Bob, who unfortunately passed away a couple of months ago. He used to say ‘happiest days of your lives’ to every player as we walked from the range to the first tee, and that’s the last thing our players will see as they leave the locker-room.”
It struck a chord with McGinley’s counterpart, particularly when it comes to a Ryder Cup. “That’s a wonderful thought,” said Tom Watson as he sat beside the Irishman, “because once you get in that pressure cooker, it’s for real.”
For McGinley, this has been real from the moment he was unveiled as Ryder Cup captain – the first Irishman to hold the post – in Abu Dhabi early last year. His planning has been meticulous and he’s enjoyed watching the most important parts of that jigsaw – the players – fit into place as they assembled over two days at the five-star Gleneagles resort.
“We’ve not arrived as collectively as the Americans,” he reported. “We’ve arrived at different stages due to people coming from all over the world. Obviously Martin (Kaymer) coming from Germany and Henrik (Stenson) coming from Sweden. Sergio (Garcia) from Spain and Graeme (McDowell) from Northern Ireland. I think the last to arrive today is Graeme around 4 o’clock.”
Of the 12, the one with easily the shortest journey, of course, was Stephen Gallacher. It’s 37 miles from his home in Linlithgow to here and he was certainly looking forward to making that journey on this occasion after giving it his all in the year-long qualifying campaign to earn the chance to play in a Ryder Cup on home soil.
McGinley is pleased he’s here and shrugged off the Scot missing the cut in the Wales Open last week. “Stevie has had a tough three weeks, to be honest,” said the captain. “I know what it’s like making your first team, particularly in your home country. I had that experience in 2006 (at The K Club) and I could understand all that was going on.
“And everywhere he looked in Scotland, he saw billboards for the Ryder Cup. He came up here and played a few practice rounds in his weeks off, but his mind was all over the place.
“Being a rookie, he didn’t really understand the real procedures of a Ryder Cup and how many tickets he got and who had access and who didn’t. So all of those things are going around in his head. Then, in the middle of it all, his grandmother (Millie) died, who he was pretty close to.
“He’s had a pretty tough time in that regard in terms of getting his head straight, but I had dinner with him last week and he was certainly very buoyant (again). I know he had a bad first round (at Celtic Manor) but then had a good second round.
“I called him on Friday night and told him to keep quiet, stay out of everybody’s way and not to go into public places or go to soccer matches where he’d be walked out in the middle of the pitch. I told him to stay around his family as a bit of quieting down was what he needed.
“He’s just arrived a couple of hours ago and he’s getting his feet under the table nicely. He’ll be a good addition to our team.”
McGinley used his first press conference of the week to re-affirm he’d have no qualms about pairing Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell together despite the ongoing court case overshadowing their relationship off the course. At the same time, though, he made reference to the fact that two wins out of six didn’t necessarily point to that being a Ryder Cup dream team that would be retained.
“Three or four months ago, I had a very strong view that they would have been (a pairing), but the more I look at the statistics and the more I look at the different value I have with them, I think there may be a value in not doing it,” he revealed. “But, if I don’t, it certainly won’t be because of any issues. As both have said, they will be happy to play together, but it will be my decision ultimately.”