Paul McGinley will use a pod system similar to the one that helped Paul Azinger win at Valhalla to take on a wounded US side at Gleneagles next week.
But while McGinley’s trusted lieutenant Des Smyth believes Tom Watson will rally his wounded troops to “stand up and deliver” for the Stars and Stripes, he’s seen enough of the Dubliner’s man management style to predict there will be no American redemption in Scotland.
“Not this time!” insisted the 61-year old Drogheda man, who will be a key advisor for a European captain who appears to have done a huge amount of ground work to ensure that the Ryder Cup remains in European hands for the sixth time in the last seven matches.
“I’m confident we can win but I’m under no illusions that the Americans are a wounded team. They want to prove something. There’s no place for complacency. You only had to see the Dublin - Donegal match recently.
“Knowing Tom Watson he’s going to say, ‘Look, you are playing for your country, it’s time for you stand up and deliver.’ That’s the way I’d view it.”
Smyth accepts that Europe will be favourites with world No 1 Rory McIlroy in the side but while many factors give Europe the edge — the course set up, the weather and the strength in depth of the European team — McGinley’s attention to detail and his ability to connect with his players could make the difference.
With five vice-captains — four to follow groups of three players in practice and a fifth to roam — Smyth has been told by McGinley that he will have three players to take under his wing for the week in what appears to be a repeat of the pod system Azinger used so effectively in Kentucky for the most recent US win in 2008.
“Paul’s very meticulous and he’s had a plan and carried it out over the last 18 months,” says Smyth, who was blown away by the statical analysis McGinley commissioned before making his wildcard picks.
“When we sat down at Queenwood to talk about his picks, he had the names of all the players on a spreadsheet detailing how they played par-fives over a long period, how they played par threes, how quick they are starting their rounds. Are they fast starters or fast finishers? The amount of statistical work was quite astonishing. Who is a strong foursomes player? Who likes playing foursomes? Who finds it very nerve wracking?”
Watson might be a legend, but Smyth points to the way McGinley was elected to the captaincy as proof positive that he is hugely respected in the team room.
“There was a bit of manoeuvring going on, for want of a better word, and all the players just said, ‘Hold on a minute, this is the guy we want.’ And they all stepped up one by one and said, ‘He’s our man.’ That was respect for him.”
The way players like Stephen Gallacher and Jamie Donaldson battled for their places in the team and made it is a credit to McGinley’s motivational powers, Smyth believes.
“Jamie was in danger of dropping out of the automatic spots and Paul told him to play in the Czech Republic, saying, ‘If you fall out, you are putting me in a difficult position because there are fabulous players that are proven waiting for picks.’ And he went and won the tournament and took his place.
“It was the same with Stephen Gallacher. Paul told him during the final wee that he had to step up and he went out and earned his pick brilliantly in Italy. He was missing the cut after 27 holes was something like 14 or 15 shots behind the leader and came home in 30 and played brilliantly at the weekend..
That’s how good Paul is. He is able to encourage them like that. He puts it on the table. I think communication is the key and he is brilliant at that.”
McGinley spoke at length at Celtic Manor ahead of the ISPS Handa Wales Open about how tight the Ryder Cup might be with the Americans relishing the underdog's role and Watson second guessed on his picks since he opted not to hand a wildcard to Billy Horschel and then saw him win the last two events to claim the FedEx Cup.
"We are under no illusions how big this task is. It's not a case of turning up and the Americans are going to roll over," McGinley said.. "This is going to be very, very difficult to win this Ryder Cup. I think we've got a slightly different threat from America than we've had in the past as far as they really feel like they are underdogs and they are up against it.
"Those things that you mentioned there, the questions and all that kind of thing and the form, that can galvanize a team, as well, too. We've seen that in the past, certainly from a European perspective, how not being on form are questions marks being made about the team can really galvanise themselves.
"We will not be underestimating America, I can assure you of that. We will be absolutely ready for this."
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