Rory McIlroy swings it for Paul McGinley to win Ryder Cup captaincy race

46-year-old becomes first Irishman to lead European team and thanks world No 1 for his words of support

Paul McGinley paid tribute to Rory McIlroy for the role the world no.1 played in helping him become Ireland’s first Ryder Cup captain at Gleneagles in 2014. McIlroy was the most prominent voice in a social media campaign that was also joined by fellow Medinah heroes Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell.

“To have the support of someone like Rory and all the other players made my hand very strong,” McGinley said. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be leading this team. It is a huge honour and a humbling experience to be sitting here.

“There's a couple of good things happened for me in terms of getting this role, and one of them was the fact that Rory and Graeme McDowell played in the first Seve Trophy, which was my first captaincy as well then, too. Rory was not the star then that he is now. I think it might have been his second year on Tour, maybe his third.

“I knew it was a very weakened team compared to how strong the Europeans were if you compared it to world rankings.  Rory and Graeme were huge for me that week. So I think I was fortunate that I had that situation where Rory had played underneath me and that's why I think he spoke with such authority on the subject.”

McGinley was one of five candidates considered, including Colin Montgomery, Sandy Lyle, Paul Lawrie and Miguel Angel Jimenez. He accepted that he did not have the playing record of recent captains, but offered an X-factor that flowered in team competition. “I don’t know what it is,” he said. “The heart beats a bit faster, the adrenalin flows harder and I just seem to come alive in that environment.

McIlroy was among the first to offer his congratulations. “I’m thrilled with the decision. As you know I made my feelings known on the captaincy. He was not only my choice but the choice for most of the players on the Ryder Cup team. I think he will do a brilliant job at Gleneagles.”

American captain, Tom Watson, offered his congratualtions via twitter. “Congrats to Paul McGinley on your R/C Captaincy. Looking forward to our future competition. You're a class act.” In a fuller response, Watson added: “I anticipate that his passion and love of the event will transfer to being an outstanding leader of his team in 2014 at Gleneagles.”

The feeling was mutual. McGinley said: ““I'm relishing the thought of taking on one of my great heroes, Tom Watson. He's not only a wonderful person abut a great ambassador for the game of golf. I've never had an opportunity to go up against him in a playing sense. To go up against him in a captaincy sense will be a real thrill for me.”

McGinley said he was tempted many times to respond to the comments in a race that became increasingly tense with first Darren Clarke and then Montgomerie gathering momentum. “Its amazing what you can learn when you listen and don’t talk.”

It took the tournament committee, chaired by Thomas Bjorn, an hour to reach their decision. Committee member McGinley was asked to leave the room and repaired his hotel suite from where he called his brother and a third Irishman, European tour pro Shane Lowry to help him kill time. “I had a couple of oatmeal cookies and a bottle of water and watched the time go by, very slowly I have to say.  I was looking at the clock very closely how long it was taking.  And obviously delighted when the news came through.”

McGinley factfile

Born 16 December, 1966, Dublin

Turned pro 1991 - Pro wins 9

Career earnings £10m

First major 1992 Open, missed cut

Best major 2004 US PGA, tied 6th

Ryder Cup debut 2002, The Belfry

Ryder Cup record Played in three Cup wins – 2002, 2004 and 2006 [nine matches, won 4½ points]

Played Gaelic football until breaking a kneecap at the age of 18, forcing him to take up golf full-time.

Holed winning putt at the 2002 Ryder Cup at the Belfry as Europe triumphed 15½ to 12½.

Named vice-captain for the 2010 and 2012 Cups, under Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal respectively.

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