Paul McGinley didn’t reinvent the wheel as European captain but he did such as great job refining an already established template that his successor has a huge task on his hands to live up to his standards.
Nobody knows this as well as Graeme McDowell, whose role at Gleneagles was defined as far back as February, when he lost to Victor Dubuisson in the quarter-finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona.
"He’s going to be a massive part of the Ryder Cup team this year and I am hoping to be there with him and maybe get a foursomes game with him," McDowell said at the time.
Fast forward seven months and McDowell and Dubuisson formed a formidable foursomes duo in Scotland, winning their two games convincingly to put Europe into an almost impregnable position going into the singles.
Playing the big brother role to Dubuisson, just as he had with Rory McIlroy in the Seve Trophy in 2009 and in the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, breathed new life into McDowell as a Ryder Cup player.
“Very much so,” McDowell said before going on to comeback from three down after five to beat Jordan Spieth 2 and 1 in the opening singles and set Europe on the road to victory . “As Rory says, Paul has been a man with a plan. He said to me that he wanted me to be a leader this week and to help blood rookies and Victor was the one he entrusted me with.
“I’m proud to have been alongside him the last couple of days and to have watched him grow as a player in the way he has. He’s been awesome. His ball-striking has been incredible and the way he’s conducted himself has been incredible. It’s fun to be part of that.
“I crave that kind of big brother, arm-round-the-guy thing and I think it came out of me the last couple of days. It’s fun to do.
“But I think Victor really is the next superstar in the making. He can be as good as he really wants to be. It’s whatever is in his head and in his heart.”
McDowell can take credit for the crucial role he’s played with the famously shy Dubuisson but McGinley also deserves to be recognised as a sensational Ryder Cup captain.
“Being a great Ryder Cup captain is being a great man-manager and he’s managed 12 egos, 12 personalities, 12 wants and needs so, so well,” McDowell said.
“He deserves credit, no doubt. Sometimes the captain is built-up too much and put down too much because it comes down to players and to shots made and putts holed.
“But Paul has been the best captain I’ve ever played under, by far because of his organisation levels and the way he’s related to every player in the team room and the roles he’s had. It’s been great.”
Organising Des Smyth on Friday and Jose Maria Olazabal on Saturday to take McDowell and Dubuisson out on the course two holes behind the fourball matches was a masterstroke in terms of putting Dubuisson at his ease.
“It’s meant we’ve gone out there unbelievably well prepared,” McDowell said. “Obviously Paul’s had a fifth vice-captain, who is there to look after the players who are not on the golf course.
“I think players need their expectations managed when they are not on the golf course. They need their emotions managed. Expectation levels are key when you’re going out there playing.
“It’s not unknown that Peter Hanson was unhappy two years ago at Medinah because he wasn’t handled correctly. His expectation levels weren’t managed correctly.
"You don’t need any member of the team feeling disappointed or down or not feeling part of the team or any of that stuff. Paul’s done a phenomenal job in that regard.”
Indeed, McDowell believes that playing such a key role in the Ryder Cup will stand to Dubuisson in future majors just as the experience of Valhalla in 2008 stood to McDowell at Pebble Beach in the 2010 US Open.
“This week was huge for him, to mature as a player, to grow as a player. As it did for me in 2008, I think the Ryder Cup can make a big difference to a guy’s career and his whole belief in himself,” McDowell said. “It’ll be great to see how he comes out the other side of this.
“Victor’s a very, very cool dude. Yes, he’s very quiet but there’s a lot of intelligence and a lot of heart behind it. Getting to know him this week, as I have, I’ve started to realise how great a guy is in there, how much talent is in there and how much passion for the game of golf.
“It’s a quiet passion, he wants to be humble and to be understated and that’s the way he comes across but he’s a very cool guy."
Dubuisson is something of a mystery and details about his childhood are hazy at best.
“Yeah, he’s guarded for reasons and I’ve chipped away at the surface a little bit," McDowell said. "There’s things in his past he doesn’t want to talk about and that’s fine.
You’re not going to go there with a guy. You’re just going to get him in a position where he’s happy to play golf and inspired and I think he’d a good time.
“Valhalla was a huge maturing process for me because I came out of there knowing and believing I could do it on the world stage, at the top level and under the highest pressure.
“This guy will gain so much belief in himself, his ability. I’ve told him how good he is. I told him I was going to tell you guys he’s the next Seve Ballesteros because I believe that’s how good he is.
“It means a lot to him. He needs that. I feel he’s the kind of player who needs to know how good he is because it’s nearly like he’s embarrassed to believe he’s a great player. World class the last couple of days, a lot of fun.”
As for the next Ryder Cup captain, McDowell knows that Europe has many potential candidates with Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez at the top of the waiting list in terms of age for Hazeltine in 2016 with Thomas Bjorn and Pádraig Harrington in the chamber for 2018 and 2020.
“They’re queuing up,” he said. “But Paul’s template should absolutely be carried on. Paul has not reinvented the wheel this week but he has refined the template. He’s looked at how Europe’s been successful and he’s worked out how to fine tune each part of that mechanism and he’s done it incredibly well.”