Any kudos deficit Paul McGinley might suffer in comparison to Tom Watson on the captaincy front is erased with the arrival in the European team room of some serious backroom muscle.
Joining McGinley as vice-captains are Jose Maria Olazabal and Padraig Harrington, who have five majors between them, plus the golfing king of Spain, Miguel Angel Jimenez. The additions announced yesterday to the previously appointed Des Smyth and Sam Torrance take the number of aides to five, that’s one per group in the field and another to spin around Gleneagles at the wheel of the captain’s buggy.
All that remains is for McGinley to prepare his speech for the opening ceremony and he is ready to roll. “I know it’s been common in the past to have three or four vice-captains but I’ve gone for five because I feel an extra person is justified due to the additional workload which comes from being the home team,” he said.
“Padraig is my oldest friend on Tour and is a guy I have known most of my life. We went to school together, came through the amateur ranks together and have been together in many contests for both Ireland and Europe over the years, so I know what he can bring to the team room.
“Miguel is someone that the spectators love as well as being very popular with all the players. However, he is also a person that I respect very much. I have sat beside him for over a decade on the Tournament Players’ Committee and have seen him exhibit an integrity on many occasions that is very admirable.
“Finally, Jose Maria’s passion for the Ryder Cup is recognised the world over. It was obvious in his legendary partnership with Seve [Ballesteros] and was also so very apparent two years ago at Medinah, so I’m delighted he has accepted my invitation to be involved again, once more maintaining that important continuity.”
Watson looks under clubbed with just three right-hand men– Ray Floyd, Steve Stricker and Andy North – but was able to trump Europe with the calibre of his wild-card picks. Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley are both major winners, Bradley lifting the US PGA in 2011, and Simpson the US Open a year later. Hunter Mahan was a winner just 11 days ago at the opening FedEx Cup tournament, the Barclays.
Bradley has assumed the Ian Poulter mantle for the United States, rousing supporters on the tee and going after the opposition with eyes ablaze. “I’ve made no secret of how important this team is to me and how badly I want to win the Ryder Cup,” said Bradley, who won all three matches alongside Phil Mickelson on the losing side at Medinah. “I think this is a redemption year for a lot of guys who were on the team in 2012.”
Poulter will not join Lee Westwood the week before at the Wales Open at Celtic Manor, favouring instead some power prep in the gym. “I’ll really ramp it up over these next three weeks, because everyone knows how much the Ryder Cup means to me,” he said. “There’s nothing like it as far as I’m concerned, nothing that comes close to getting the passion and the juices flowing like that week. That’s why I tend to play exceptionally well with a European badge on my chest.”