Ryder Cup: Europe blessed with strong characters

McGinley believes he has a team in place to retain the trophy in Perthshire. Picture: PA
McGinley believes he has a team in place to retain the trophy in Perthshire. Picture: PA
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IT WAS inevitable that, on some point of the journey, there was going to be disappointment for a Scot. That Paul Lawrie has become the individual in question is certainly worthy of inspection.

His name was missing among the three announced yesterday to complete Paul McGinley’s backroom team for Gleneagles. Joining Sam Torrance and Des Smyth, the veteran duo unveiled as vice-captains earlier in the year, are Spanish pair Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal as well as Irishman Padraig Harrington.

With 17 Ryder Cup appearances, not to mention five major titles, between them, the trio bring formidable experience and each has other credentials for being selected.

Having just missed out on automatic selection, for instance, Jimenez is the perfect person to provide a necessary continental European connection, especially having been picked by McGinley to lead Europe in the inaugural EurAsia Cup in Malaysia earlier in the year.

I don’t buy into the theory that his “English isn’t good enough” for him to become a Ryder Cup captain one day, so this role in Perthshire, having been vice-captain already to both Seve Ballesteros and Olazabal in the past, is probably a progression towards that.

Harrington, too, will almost certainly be Europe’s captain one day and his run of six successive playing appearances having ended two years ago, his selection by McGinley, given their strong relationship that was spawned as schoolboys, should come as no real surprise.

The surprise, perhaps, is Olazabal. Not, of course, because he does not deserve to be there. The Ryder Cup is in his blood and, by all accounts, his speech in the team room on the Saturday night at Medinah was just as inspiring as Ian Poulter’s on-course heroics for Europe earlier that day.

Where his appointment came out of the blue was that Olazabal had seemed to have ruled himself out of the reckoning and, in truth, it is rare for captains to want to be involved in the very next match.

If it was more McGinley talking him around than the Spaniard having a change of heart, then well done to the European captain because, along with Torrance in particular, he will bring real passion to the home team-room.

At the same time, though, it is impossible not to feel sorry for Lawrie as, just over two years ago, it seemed inconceivable that the Aberdonian would not be involved in the first Ryder Cup to be held in Scotland since 1973.

At Medinah, Lawrie produced the best figures in the singles as he thumped Brandt Snedeker, who had just won the FedEx Cup, in helping Europe record that astonishing victory.

He had bridged a 13-year gap to make the team for the second time in his career and, as the baton was handed over to Scotland as the host country, it was Lawrie who looked most likely to provide some home representation at Gleneagles, either as a player or vice-captain.

While he has known for some time that a loss of form had scuppered those playing ambitions on home soil, he was not the only one who believed McGinley was keeping a spot aside for him on that backroom team.

He was wrong and me, too, I’m afraid, though McGinley had warned me during the US PGA Championship at Valhalla that this decision was a possibility as he waited to see how things panned out with Jimenez as he tried to make the team.

Given the fact he is Scotland’s most recent men’s major champion and played in the last match, it is disappointing that Lawrie will not be involved at Gleneagles. However, having been prepared to accept whatever decision he made with the wild cards, even if it meant disappointment for Scotland, the same has to be applied to the vice-captains.