I've still got a lot to offer says McGinley

By Brian Keogh

Paul McGinley reflected on turning 40 and his nightmare 2006 and insisted - I've still got a lot to offer.

The Dubliner's once jet-black hair has been grey for some time now but he refuses to concede that his best years are behind him.

Paul McGinley

As he prepared to team up with Darren Clarke under the orders of Seve Ballesteros in next week's Royal Trophy in Bangkok, McGinley revealed his determination to battle his way back to the top of world golf.

But he knows that he needs to get out of the blocks fast if he is to achieve his first goal of the year and earn a place in next month's WGC - Accenture World Matchplay in Arizona.

The combination of a knee operation and the stress of securing his Ryder Cup place saw McGinley's form desert him in mid-stream last term.

From a high of 18th in the world in late 2005, he crashed to 71st at the end of last year with the Ryder Cup win at The K Club the only bright spot on an otherwise forgettable campaign.

Major swing faults sapped his confidence but after recharging his batteries over Christmas and toning up in the gym, he says he's bursting to get going again.

Outlining his early season ambitions, McGinley said: "It's all about getting into the World Matchplay in Arizona. That's my first goal.

"Age has nothing to do with what happened last year. I am the same at 40 as I was at 39. I don't feel a lot different. In fact, I think I can get better.

"I have only played five tournaments since the Ryder Cup and as a result my world ranking has fallen terribly.

"So I have just been working on my fitness since the end of the season. I haven't played or practised a lot and I am just raring to go."

The top 64 in the world rankings will tee it up at The Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Tucson, Arizona, from February 19-25.

And McGinley knows that he will need to produce some serious performances in Qatar, Pebble Beach and Los Angeles in his first three strokeplay starts to earn his place in the field.

He explained: "It is all about getting the world ranking points so that I get into the World Matchplay. After the Royal Trophy I am going to Qatar and then I have managed to get an invitation to the AT&T at Pebble Beach, where I played really well last year.

"I'm hopeful that I will get an invite to the Nissan Open in LA the following week and that I can do enough to get into the Matchplay.

"I am 71st in the world and I have just got to get into that top 64 to play in the world matchplay. So I have got to make a jump in the first four tournaments.

"My record in matchplay always seems to be very good throughout my career and I'd love to play in that World Matchplay, particularly when it is being played in the desert in firm, fast conditions."

McGinley's best matchplay performances have not come in the Accenture Matchplay Championship, where he has yet to get past the second round in three previous appearances.

But elsewhere he has been outstanding and compiled an outstanding record in the Seve Trophy, Ryder Cup, Royal Trophy and HSBC World Matchplay championships.

In 2005 he reached the final of the HSBC event at Wentworth and is unbeaten in three Ryder Cup singles, winning one match and halving the other two.

On his debut in the Royal Trophy clash with Asia last year, he won all three of his matches and he's hoping for a similar performance at Amata Spring Golf Club in Bangkok from January 12-14.

Having left the clubs alone over the Christmas break, McGinley plans to use the annual matchplay clash between Europe and Asia to hone his game and grab some vital early season results.

He said: "The priority was to have a break and come nice and fresh, ready for the year so all I have done is worked on my fitness and getting myself strengthened up for a long season ahead.

"I want to be as fit and strong as I can be this year and then I'll go about getting myself ready with the hard practice over the next ten days or so.

"The Royal Trophy is a great way to get the year going. I played in it last year, we won and I really enjoyed it.

"I won three games out of three and playing under Seve as captain was a fantastic experience. I learned a lot from him about matchplay when we were out there last year.

"I really enjoyed the tournament, it was a really good golf course and it had a good atmosphere and we were really well looked after. I can wait to get out there again.

"The weather is perfect and it is not as hot as somewhere like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur - it's a nice 85 degrees.

"I get a lot out of the event, not just the team atmosphere and the chance to play under Seve. It is basically an introduction to the new season and a chance to practice at brilliant facilities and play a nice team event.

"You are not out there trying to compete in terms of winning the tournament straight away. You have lots of time to practice and work on your chipping and putting to get your game in great shape for the season."

As for 2005, McGinley has drawn a line under a season that saw him earn just two top ten finishes.

He's still mystified as to exactly what went wrong but has always insisted that his loss of form had more to do with the knee operation he underwent in May than the pressure of qualifying for the Ryder Cup.

He explained: "The Ryder Cup will always define 2006, even though it was a poor year for me in other ways. I had the knee injury and when I look back at it now, I probably came back to quickly after that.

"As a result of the operation I wasn't swinging onto my left side and that caused the faults in my swing that cost me big time last season.

"I was hanging back on my right side because I hadn't mentally got over the fact that my left knee was pain free again. I was playing for two, three, four weeks, basically off my right side and I got into some bad swing habits in the middle of the season.

"All of a sudden my swing was gone and my form was gone and it was only towards the end of the season that I started to play well again and started to hit the ball off my left side.

"The big mistake that I made was coming back to quickly after the operation and that caused a physical problem that led to technical problems.

"Mentally I wasn't ready to get onto that left side and in hindsight I should have taken two or three extra weeks off, practised hard and got all that out of my head before I started again."

With 40-somethings such as Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazábal and Miguel Angel Jiménez still capable of holding their own at the top level, McGinley sees no reason why he can't compete after 40.

He said: "Turning 40 hasn't even crossed my mid at all. I will keep on going and I know I can keep on going because I am fitter than I have ever been.

"Yes, the standard is getting higher and higher and the tour is getting tougher every year but I am prepared to work to reach the standard you need to succeed and that's the bottom line.

"Nobody is more mystified than me at how poorly I performed last year but as I say, roll on 2007. There is no point in dwelling on it. Everybody's career has got peaks and troughs and mine is no different.

"I had a poor year last year but I had a great year the year before so it's onwards and upwards."