PAUL McGinley may be a big Celtic fan but he will be trying to “unite Scotland, not divide it” when he leads Europe into battle at Gleneagles.
The new European Ryder Cup captain has vowed to deliver a “very strong Scottish theme” for the biennial contest but it will have nothing to do with football.
“I’m going to be doing something very strong from a Scottish perspective, whether it’s to do with the bags or the team uniforms,” he told The Scotsman. “But, while I’m a Celtic fan, I can assure you there will be no Celtic theme. This is about uniting Scotland, not dividing it.”
McGinley, who is a close friend of Celtic’s majority shareholder Dermot Desmond, will find himself in the unusual position of coming up against an American captain with so much popularity in the host country.
But McGinley insisted: “I won’t be doing something strong in a Scottish sense just because I know Tom Watson has such an affinity with the Scottish fans.
“I think it is right to honour the country the match is being played in and Scotland is the home of golf.
“I have some ideas and, having now been appointed, I can expand those. I will talk to the European Tour and see exactly what I can do.”
He will also talk to potential members of his team about trying to play at Gleneagles in this year’s Johnnie Walker Championsip – their final opportunity to test out the changes to the PGA Centenary Course ahead of the match as that event is not being held next year.
“It is very important the potential team members play it if they can but schedules these days make it so difficult for any captain to get them to do that,” admitted the 46-year-old Irishman.
“I know it’s a course that not everyone likes but, personally, I’m happy we are playing there. I think there are a lot of strong holes and I certainly don’t think Gleneagles is going to let Scotland down.”
If McGinley’s thoroughness is anything to go by, neither will the European captain, who had prepared notes for both eventualities at Tuesday night’s European Tour tournament committee meeting in Abu Dhabi.
He also has a book of notes that have been compiled since making his Ryder Cup debut in 2002, when he holed the winning putt for Sam Torrance’s team at The Belfry.
McGinley will decide later in the year about how many wildcards he’ll want and also if he wants to change the system used by Jose Maria Olazabal for the automatic selections. For the 2012 match, five came off a world points list and five from a European one.
“I’d be happy to take the 12 players from Medinah and go out again but I would also love to see other guys having a fair opportunity,” he said.
“When Edoardo Molinari, for instance, had a good year on the European Tour in 2010, he was able to make the team and it is very important to me that fresh blood have the opportunity of getting on the team for Gleneagles.”