Could Langer be McGinley's "shock" assistant?

Paul McGinley in pensive mood at Wentworth. Picture: David Lloyd /

Paul McGinley surprised few with his wildcard picks and continued his so far impeccable Ryder Cup captaincy by choosing Scottish rookie Stephen Gallacher, Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter and veteran hard-man Lee Westwood to do battle at Gleneagles. 

On paper, it's just about as strong and balanced a European Ryder Cup team as you could want and while the US side is stronger with the addition of Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson by Tom Watson (the less said about the sophorific and self-indulgent announcement format the better), Europe are clear favourites.

The odd man out for Europe (with respect to Joost Luiten and Francesco Molinari) was Luke Donald.

His excellent Ryder Cup record and close friendship with McGinley was not enough to outweight fears over his poor form and the swing changes he's struggling to bed in. In short, they were picks that surprised no-one and we may well be more suprised by his choice of vice=captains. At least that's what Des Smyth said when asked about the possibility of seeing Donald or Pádraig Harrington driving buggies at Gleneagles. 

"It's not for me to say and the captain will make those public in the new few days," Smyth told Newstalk. "Why spoil the surprise? But I think you are in for a shock."

McGinley is set to name not two but three extra assistants to complement Smyth and Sam Torrance. We still believe Harrington and Miguel Angel Jimenez will still get the nod and while there is talk of Scotland's Paul Lawrie and a general belief that Donald may not want to take a vice-captaincy even if given a few days to think about it, McGinley has an interesting fifth option — Bernhard Langer.

The European skipper tried to call Langer, his captain in 2004, to tell him he wasn't getting a pick "out of respect more than anything else."

"He wasn't a consideration in terms of a pick but as an ex‑captain and a captain that I played under, I called him," McGinley revealed in his press conference.  

"Unfortunately didn't get a hold of him.  Tried a couple of times and left a message for him and I really want to have a chat with him before The Ryder Cup starts, mostly because obviously he was a captain that I played under and I obviously learned a lot from him and I'm interested to hear his views on a number of things."  

Langer would certainly add an extra dimension to the backroom staff of five — which is one more than McGinley initially planned.

"I can confirm that my final two vice-captains will be current players as they will have intimate knowledge of my players as well as the American side, something that is crucial," McGinley said at the US PGA. "They will perfectly complement Sam Torrance and Des Smyth, who have been massive sounding boards throughout my career and especially in recent months."

The many moods of Paul McGinley. Via

There are clear connections between Torrance and Smyth and a possible Lawrie-Harrington-Langer triumvirate. Not only that, the presence of Harrington would fulfill McGinley's unwritten duty to blood a potential future captain. 

With Darren Clarke commentating for Sky and clearly not a man McGinley wants in his backroom team after their tense battle for the captaincy, Harrington ticks several boxes when it comes the knowledge of the US squad.

Langer's attention to detail and his vast Ryder Cup experience could only be a plus while Lawrie has a bond with the backbone of the team and also with rookies like Jamie Donaldson and Gallacher.

While there are many seemingly obvious pairings, McGinley also has the flexibility to throw some curveballs. Sergio Garcia-Martin Kaymer anyone? Or what about Rory McIlroy and Jamie Donaldson? Or Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson, or Bjorn and Gallacher? Or Westwood and Justin Rose? There are dozens of possibilities.

Leaving Donald out was a wrench for McGinley but as Smyth pointed out on Newstalk, you don't want a guy wondering what swing he's got today when the weather could be rough.

Awarded his ninth cap, Westwood is not only in better form than Donald, he may offer McGinley more options in foursomes and fourballs. And while his singles record has not been great compared to Donald's, that's partly because he has been exhausted by the time the mano a mano matches have come around.

He played all five matches in 1997, 1999, 2002, 2004 and 2006 but only won his singles in the record wins at Oakland Hills and The K Club. Then came Sir Nick Faldo in 2008, as the Daily Mail recalled before the Miracle Medinah two years ago.

"Westwood, playing a fourballs match in the company of Soren Hansen and on the cusp of equalling Arnold Palmer's record of 12 matches unbeaten, was told he was going to be dropped from a series of matches the following morning for the first time in his career.
'It was easily the worst moment, it just seemed such a strange time to drop somebody,' said Westwood, who was clearly flat when he did get out on the course the following afternoon, partnering Hansen again and losing his unbeaten record.
"I don't think captains can help significantly in winning a match but if they get the little things wrong they can have a significant effect on you losing it,' he added.

McGinley famously handed back his vice-captains armband to Faldo for that debacle, which may explain why Faldo (who later revealed poignantly that he was "back to Eng at full looks like my lovely, loving, kind, gentle, handsome dad George is now on the 18th tee of life!) sniffed at the selection of Westwood ahead of Donald.


The press conference certainly revealed a great deal of respect and warmth for McGinley amongst the players from Gallacher's reaction ("That's brilliant, wee man.") to Donald's graciousness. 

"He was very, very disappointed, and rightly so," McGinley revealed. "He's a former world No. 1.  His record in The Ryder Cup stands with anybody in the game. 

"As I say, my personal relationship goes right back to the first ever shot he hit in The Ryder Cup; I was his partner.

"He said:  'You know, Paul, I publically backed you to be the captain.  Even though you have not picked me, I still believe you'll be a great captain.'  

"His last few words were, "Go Europe."  I think that says a lot about Luke."

It also says a lot about Europe. And McGinley too.