Europe is now a -330 favorite to after jumping to a 5-3 lead over the Unites States in first round play in the Ryder Cup, held this year in Scotland. The US, after a solid morning, did not win a single second-session match. Captain Paul McGinley talks about the first day:
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Paul, thanks for joining us, as always. Start us off with your thoughts on today’s matches, not the best morning but a record European performance.
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, terrific, great response, and as we have all seen in Ryder Cups over the years, momentum can be a huge and key factor. And we’ve seen huge momentum shifts from situations like we had in the morning, where it looked like we at one stage were going to win 3-1 in the morning and ended up losing 1 1/2 to 2 1/2. The way the Americans played the last few holes was very strong and they certainly had their tails up going into the afternoon sessions. As we’ve seen so many times in Ryder Cups, as we say that often can have a ripple effect and a domino effect and then you go on to have a great afternoon session based on that momentum you’ve achieved. For our guys to react the way they did, for all four matches to be up I think after six holes, there was blue on the board for every single match, was a terrific response. It shows a huge amount of character that we have on the team, huge amount of talent that we can come out with such strong pairings in the afternoon and a great response and resilience from the team.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: I know you’ve not had much time to ponder them, but give us your initial thoughts on tomorrow’s match-ups.
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, obviously I’ve gone again with guys we led off with yesterday, or today, rather, Justin and Henrik. Very strong players, as we all know, and leading off with them again. I thought Jamie and Lee played particularly strongly in the afternoon today and wanted to give them another go in the fourballs today. Lee was immense, absolutely immense, for a guy who, I think it’s his ninth Ryder Cup, and just absolutely immense to go out with that kind of a spirit and steady the ship, playing at No. 1. That’s why he was playing No. 1 this afternoon. Situations like this morning, important was not to overreact to it. Okay, wasn’t a session that went our way. But to lead out with Lee Westwood in the afternoon was huge, and Jamie was very appreciative of having him on his shoulder. Going again with Thomas and Martin. A little bit disappointed, they were today, that they only got half a match because they thought they played better than that, but again the Americans finished very strong and that can happen at this level. I’ve given Sergio a rest tomorrow morning and brought in Ian Poulter and a partnership that’s obviously worked in the past and they have practised together this week.
Q. Justin and Henrik got you two points today. Hallmarks of a classic Ryder Cup partnership?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, as I said yesterday, you make decisions to the best of your ability and based on the information you have and your instinct, and some work and some don’t. Those two guys are together for a particular reason. It’s based on my understanding of who they are as people, as well as golfers. I’ve been studying them and watching them for quite a length of time and that’s what I felt. That’s why they are together. They obviously won both their matches today, and no reason not to put them out again tomorrow.
Q. Impossible to find any fault with these pairings but it must have been tempting to find a place for Victor Dubuisson. Is that true, and can you talk about that and his performance today?
PAUL McGINLEY: You’re right, it was very tempting, but I’m looking at the big picture, something I can’t reveal at the moment but you’ll see on Sunday night. I’m working to a plan. I’ll reveal a little bit more Sunday night. Victor and Graeme played particularly strong today. It was very tempting, but I was in a very privileged position that I had a lot of options.
Q. Talk about how he played, first Ryder Cup match?
PAUL McGINLEY: He was really brilliant. He was really, really brilliant and he really enjoyed it. I was there on the first tee with him, and, yeah, I’ve put a lot of work into Victor over certainly the last six months, traveled around the world with him a little bit, got to know him, and I’ve really got to know him and enjoy him and understand him. I’ve translated a lot of what I know about him to Graeme, so Graeme has really hit the ground running with him. I’ve been able to draw the two of them together during the summer period on The European Tour when they have played in events, and they have got to know each other, and I all along in my mind had them that they would be a partnership. They played very well, obviously today, and I mean, you don’t have to — you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that they will more than likely play tomorrow afternoon again.
Q. At 38 years old, Jamie Donaldson has had to wait a while. How good was he today?
PAUL McGINLEY: Again, great. I mean, he was great. He loved it. I think he relished — he was very fortunate to have a guy of Lee Westwood’s calibre on his shoulder in his first Ryder Cup match and he was in a very fortunate situation to do that. I think it certainly helped him relax and play so well. No coincidence that Nicolas Colsaerts had ten birdies playing in his first Ryder Cup match with Lee Westwood at Medinah, as well, too. Lee doesn’t have to play all the golf. Just his presence makes these guys relax and play great. Having said that, that’s not disrespectful to the way Lee played today. He played absolutely fantastic.
Q. How impressive was Justin today, because he really led from the front right from the off, didn’t he?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, it was a tough day today. It was a really, really tough day; cold, windy, crosswinds everywhere, fairways relatively narrow. It was tough conditions, and he’s strong. He’s very fit, he’s very strong. He’s got a very strong partner on his shoulder and his partner knows that Justin is very strong. They are a very good dynamic.
Q. Do you have any reservations now about having played Sergio and Rory together twice today, and secondly, do you have any reservations about Rory using a new driver this week?
PAUL McGINLEY: Answer both of those questions no. I think their finish today showed you what kind of a spirit they have. I think the dynamic is strong between them. And just because you go out and you lose a match in The Ryder Cup doesn’t mean you’re a bad partnership. You’re playing at the very, very elite level here in professional sport in our game of golf, and sometimes you can go out and it just doesn’t click. And it’s not because the dynamic between the two of you is wrong, but your games don’t match up, or there’s something big as to why you shouldn’t. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. So you dust yourself off and you go back out in the afternoon. They went back out in the afternoon again and got away to a slow start again and never seemed — they seemed to be spinning their wheels a lot without really going forward. But it just shows you the resilience to have the finish that they did and pull it out of the — pull a halve match out the way they did, and I certainly wouldn’t hesitate putting them together again. I still believe there’s a great partnership. The second part of the question?
Q. Rory’s new driver —
PAUL McGINLEY: I’m not going to second guess Rory. He’s the best player in the world and he makes his own decision and I won’t have any decisions on what he makes with driver or not. That’s totally his call.
Q. Obviously wasn’t the debut Stephen Gallacher was looking for. Have you had a chance to have a word with him, and, if possible, would you like to get him out tomorrow afternoon before the singles?
PAUL McGINLEY: I would like to get him out tomorrow afternoon, yeah, and he’ll be practising tomorrow like all the guys with a view to that, with a view to playing in the afternoon. He had a disappointing obviously day today. Good birdie on the second. Slow start on the first hole, birdieing the second. It just didn’t flow. It just didn’t flow between him and Poulter today. But as I say, that can happen. That can happen, sometimes it just doesn’t happen quick. I’m fortunate that I have two senior figures on the team there that I felt would be great for the rookies in Graeme McDowell and Jamie Donaldson. I always knew that. I was struggling for a third, and Ian Poulter was chosen for a role that he didn’t really think he was going to be chosen for. But I’ve been communicating that with him during the week, and the more I talked to him about it, the more he was up for it and the more I talked to him about the big atmosphere, and the more I talked to him about Stevie and what we needed to do; but it’s a very difficult role to perform, very difficult role to perform, and I’ve given him a very different role tomorrow.
Q. What was your first thoughts when you saw that Reed and Spieth were not playing in the afternoon after their performance in the morning?
PAUL McGINLEY: To be honest, I was so involved — like I was saying all along, and I really mean this, I’m so involved in what we’re doing and how we are going about it and setting out what rotation we are putting them out, and the dynamics of that is communicating with all the vice captains and making sure we have our house in order. I know it’s a strong American Team, and when you lose, things don’t go well, like didn’t go well for America this afternoon, you only win half a point out of four, you’re going to be second guessed. If it had of been us, I would have been second guessing of my pairings, why putting two rookies out in the foursomes, which is a much tougher discipline than fourball, why put them out. But when you’re captain, you make those decisions. You make those calculated risks and I took a calculated risk, that is, although foursomes is a much tougher discipline, I had two players that were playing well, and could adapt to that discipline. And I put my focus and my experience in the morning session because that first morning in The Ryder Cup is really important to try to get a way to just get your feet running. But their American rookies performed very well in that situation, too. So Tom got his guys to really perform. His rookies performed very well in the morning.
Q. You talked on the buildup about the role of the fifth vice captain. I was wondering now that it started, if you could reflect a little bit more about that?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, I mean, it’s no secret now, I can talk about it, because it’s obviously on the radar now and people see what’s happening. Des Smyth played the fifth vice captain role today and his job was to look after the four who were not on the golf course, and you could see by the results of the four who were not on the golf course, it was pretty good. He was communicating with them from 9 o’clock this morning. They were all on different agendas. A couple them played a few holes together. Des was with them and communicating and he was communicating with me and I was giving him messages that he was passing on to the players. So they were in full communication with me through Des as to what role they would be playing in the afternoon. So they knew a few hours in advance as to what number they were playing. They knew they were playing. I had a plan of playing all 12 players, and that’s what that was about.
Q. Where did they play?
PAUL McGINLEY: They were playing the golf course, two holes behind.
Q. Did your plan change at all in regards to what was going on in the morning, or was this the plan for the afternoon, was always the plan for Friday afternoon?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, I think the important thing this morning, when you don’t win a session, again, it’s something I’ve learned from José Maria and learned from Monty and learned from the guys I’ve been vice captain under and guys I’ve played under, you’re not going to win every session. We’ve lost more sessions than we have won in recent times. But it’s important not to panic and it’s important, I believe, to look at the 24-hour period rather than just one session and then assess and then go again. I think you’ve got to do a mixture of both. It’s not black or it’s not white. I had an overall, as I call it, a skeleton plan, and you Bob and weave. What I saw in the morning, there was though reason to change that skeleton plan and to go with it in the afternoon. I wanted to get all 12 players out on the golf course today and we did that. Now I feel we’re in a better position to adapt and make decisions going forward.
Q. After a difficult day for Ian, was the decision to put him back with Rory in the same fourball they had Saturday at Medinah, is there any element of waiting to inspire Ian as much as inspire the crowd in that pairing?
PAUL McGINLEY: Yeah, I put him back with him because he played the senior figure today with Stevie Gallacher and obviously it didn’t go well. And Ian Poulter’s heart is that big, as we all know and that was a real body blow for him to lose a match heavily in a Ryder Cup. I just want to bring Ian Poulter back up again and put him on the shoulder of the world’s best player, and I know he’ll respond to that.
Q. McDowell after closing his match out on the 16th said that he expected he and Victor would play twice tomorrow. In terms of the big picture, in what extent are the players in on it in the sense of, how much do they know? And the second part of the question is, how much flexibility do you allow yourself in relation to the plan?
PAUL McGINLEY: There’s got to be flexibility. All plans need flexibility, and communication is 100 per cent. Before I put in any names this afternoon, I had a number of upgrade options and I looked at them and I made a decision as to what way I wanted to go and why I wanted to do it based on where I see the big picture for the week. The first fellow I spoke to was Graeme, because I knew he would have liked to play tomorrow morning and I knew Victor would, as well, too. When I sat him down and explained why he wasn’t playing in the morning and he would be playing in the afternoon, and had a real adult discussion with him, he was 100 per cent on board. I had the same with Victor, as well, too. I didn’t see him but I called him before I put the team in, as well, too, for the same reason. Yeah, I’d like to think that communication is wide and the players are all on side and they understand where I’m going with the plan and they understand there’s a moment in time when, to use your phrase in cycling, when they move to the front (smiling).
Q. Why don’t you select Victor on fourballs tomorrow morning?
PAUL McGINLEY: There’s a number of reasons. I don’t want to go into them, but there’s a number of reasons as to why he played incredibly well today, but the big reason is, I had a winning dynamic this morning with Victor. Victor had the morning off. He prepared. He played a few holes. He had a fifth vice captain looking after him and he played with a very senior player in Graeme McDowell. That dynamic, all of those dynamics before he hit his had first shot were very important psychologically for Victor to step on the first tee and I want to do that again. I think by going too much with Victor, trying to play him in the morning and trying to squeeze too much out of him, I might lose that dynamic and I really want to keep that dynamic and keep him fresh for the afternoon, because mentally he was very fresh this afternoon. Everybody plays different roles at different stages during Ryder Cups and some guys will go there and he comes back, some guy goes there and comes back. For me I have an overall what I call a skeleton plan, and it has movement in it. Because he played well today, I considered playing him in the morning, but obviously that’s not the case.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Paul, many thanks, as always.