The Ryder Cup
The 40th Ryder Cup will be held at The Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland, in September 2014. Before then, golfers from Europe and the US will battle it out to win a place on their respective 12-man team.
Europe’s qualification process got under way on 29 August at the ISPS Handa Wales Open. This was the first tournament at which players could earn points for the European Points List. The players who fill the top four positions on this list at the end of August 2014 will qualify for The Ryder Cup team. They will be joined by the top five players on the World Points List. The final three players will be picked by Paul McGinley, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain.
McGinley told EY. “It’s important that the guys are competitive during the year and they know where they stand. I want the players to feel that if they play well enough they’ll make the team.”
To mark the beginning of Europe’s qualification process, McGinley spoke to EY about how he can spot a good team golfer and how he will approach the task of building a high-performing team.
Communication is key
I’m very much aware that a team is made up of so many different individuals. And in a sport like golf where, 51 weeks a year, we’re trying to beat each other, to come together every 104 weeks for The Ryder Cup requires a different mindset.
The first task is to communicate with the player – find out where he’s at, what he thinks, what his views are. Initially, I think it is very important to listen rather than speak as a leader. You need to understand each individual and appreciate that there’s no right or wrong in terms of where people are coming from.
You do things and make decisions for individuals according to their view on things. I want to hear their views on the week, who they like to partner, what way they see the week evolving. It’s important to get inside the players’ heads and hear their views on who they’d like to play with. They must feel like they can speak to their captain in confidence and know that the conversation will go no further.
Team members contribute in different ways. You take a guy who may be quiet in the team room and not say a whole lot, yet he might make a huge contribution. He might be a team player and a real giver. Everybody is different, and it’s important to find out how. This is where communication with the player is the ultimate starting point from which everything else evolves.
Spotting a team player
I can tell much about the qualities of a guy in the team by his body language. Let me give an example. Think back to Medinah, when Ian Poulter holed a putt to win a point on the Saturday night and Martin Kaymer holed what turned out to be the winning putt the following day.
There was one common denominator between the two that a lot of people missed. For both putts, the team had congregated around the front right-hand portion of the green – caddies, players, everybody. As a player, subconsciously you know where they are. And what was interesting was that when both Poulter and Kaymer holed their putts, the first thing they did was turn around to their team with their fists clenched.
That’s the body language of two great team players. You can contrast that with a footballer who, when he scores a goal, brushes aside his teammates so that he can run to the crowd as quickly as possible and then turn around and point to his name on the back of his shirt.
Wisdom from Woosie
In 2006, I played in the team captained by Ian Woosnam. He knew he had a very strong team. He’d inherited a team captained by Bernhard Langer that won by a wide margin two years previously, and the large majority of the players had made the team again.
What I learned from his captaincy was that he kept it simple. He didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. He rolled out the template that had worked in the past. He put the pairings together that had been successful. We went on to match Langer’s margin of victory.
Keeping things simple is not always an easy thing to do. But he managed to keep the whole structure behind the team very simple that week, and that was a real insight for me.
Gleneagles in Scotland will provide the test for European and American golfers in 2014. Back in 1921, Gleneagles was the venue for an unofficial match between the professionals of Great Britain & Ireland and the US – an event that provided inspiration for the first Ryder Cup in 1927.
“Pretty as a picture”
This phrase was used by American golfer Walter Hagen as he looked out at Gleneagles in 1921, when he led the US Team in the first unofficial match between leading professionals of Great Britain & Ireland, and the US. This event is generally acknowledged as the inspiration for The Ryder Cup, which was established six years later. “The sun lit up the golden glory of the gorse,” reported The Scotsman newspaper.
In 2014, the US team led by Tom Watson will strive to win on European soil for the first time since 1993. The match will be played over The PGA® Centenary Course, which was created by Jack Nicklaus. The 18-time Major winner brought his vast Ryder Cup experience to the task. The course was previously known as the Monarch's Course and was renamed in 2001 to celebrate the centenary of The PGA. It has been redesigned specifically for The Ryder Cup.
Visitors to Gleneagles will doubtless agree with the views of Wild Bill Mehlhorn, one of Walter Hagen’s team who competed there in 1921. “If a man can’t play golf here then he can’t play,” said Mehlhorn. “Aye,” said George Duncan, his Scottish counterpart. “This is as beautiful as golf gets.”
Here is a flavor of what the players and fans can expect in 2014:
- 10th hole: A 208-yard par 3 offering stunning views of the Grampians, reflecting Nicklaus’s own view of Gleneagles as “the finest parcel of land in the world I have ever been given to work with.”
- 14th hole: In some ways, this 330-yard par 4 is a throwback to a previous era. But, despite its length, the hole shouldn’t be underestimated. Those tempted to drive the green must take into consideration six protecting bunkers. A great match play hole.
- 17th hole: The name of the hole offers a warning: Ca’ Canny, translated as Be Careful. A par 3 of 194 yards, with a ridge lurking for anything that leaks away from the hole.
- 18th hole: Many a Ryder Cup has been decided on the final hole, and the 533-yard 18th at The PGA Centenary Course awaits the teams in 2014. With two par 5s in the last three holes, Nicklaus has ensured that excitement and drama is all but guaranteed for the huge crowds that will gather around the final green.