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New Ryder Cup captain McGinley to honor Seve and Scotland

Paul McGinley of Ireland smiles near the Ryder Cup during a news conference after being named the European Ryder Cup captain at the St. Regi
Paul McGinley of Ireland smiles near the Ryder Cup during a news conference after being named the European Ryder Cup captain at the St. Regi

By Tony Jimenez

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - New Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley plans to commemorate the late Seve Ballesteros and pay a special tribute to the 'Home of Golf' when he leads holders Europe against the United States at Gleneagles next year.

"I can assure all of the people in Scotland that I'll have very much a Scottish theme to what I'm going to do at Gleneagles," the 46-year-old Irishman told reporters ahead of this week's Abu Dhabi Championship.

"I would also like to have a Seve theme to what we are going to do. One of the things I want to do as captain is continue the Seve legacy.

"I don't know how I'm going to go about that yet. I'll leave that for discussions later but I will be continuing that legacy," said McGinley after being appointed the first Irish skipper in Ryder Cup history on Tuesday.

Ballesteros, who died in 2011 at the age of 54 after a long battle with brain cancer, was one of Europe's most inspirational performers in the biennial team competition.

The Spaniard compiled an impressive 20-12-5 record as a player and formed an outstanding partnership with fellow countryman Jose Maria Olazabal.

Ballesteros also played an indirect role in McGinley's appointment as Olazabal's successor as Ryder Cup skipper as it was in his Seve Trophy event that the Irishman first cut his captaincy teeth.

McGinley led Britain and Ireland to Seve Trophy victories over Continental Europe in 2009 and 2011 and he said team golf had always brought out something extra in him.

"I certainly went to another level when I played in team golf," said the Irishman who was on the winning side on each of his three Ryder Cup appearances in 2002, 2004 and 2006.

"I wish I could have been the same as an individual," added four-times European Tour winner McGinley. "Gaelic football is where I started and I think that's where it comes from, being part of a team, being in a dressing room.

"My heart ticks a bit faster and my adrenaline goes more and I just love the environment of being in a team. In the Ryder Cup I love the team meetings, the pageantry, everything about it.

"I don't know what that X-factor is but I seem to go to another level when I'm involved in team golf."

GOLFING POLITICS

The Ryder Cup captaincy campaign began immediately after Europe staged a dramatic comeback to beat the Americans in Illinois in September.

McGinley and 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke were the front-runners for the job until the Northern Irishman pulled out just hours ahead of Tuesday's vote by the Players Committee in Abu Dhabi.

Golfing politics came to the fore in the weeks leading up to the vote but a calm and dignified McGinley stayed true to his values and decided to stay clear of the whirlwind of media debate.

"I watched it all. It's amazing what you can learn when you listen and don't talk," he said. "I knew I had the support of the players and I thought my hand was very strong to be named captain and that if it was meant to be, it was meant to be.

"I felt the more I would say, the more my chances would lessen. I read and followed every word over the last few weeks and like a yo-yo my chances seemed to go up and down."

McGinley said there were times when he was on the brink of entering the media debate.

"I was very tempted to speak up but I've got a wife and great friends around me that I respect and they said, 'Stay with dignity in this whole thing and don't get involved - it will work in the long term for you'.

"That advice was really good. I believed that myself too, it wasn't difficult to convince me.

"I stepped back and watched it all grow and grow on great legs - it really did become a big, big story which is not all bad news," added McGinley.

"It's good for the European Tour we are able to get that much attention and it's great for the Ryder Cup there's such interest in who the captain is going to be."

McGinley said he cannot wait to lock horns next year with U.S. skipper Tom Watson, an eight-time major winner.

"I'm relishing the thought of taking on one of my great heroes," he added. "He's not only a wonderful person but a great ambassador for the game.

"I never had the opportunity to go up against him in a playing sense but to have that opportunity in a captaincy sense is going to be a real thrill for me."

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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