The Ryder Cup Captain

The Ryder Cup Captains Blog

In sport, as in business, you succeed by getting talent to work together. That is why EY is proud to be an Official Partner of the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Ernst & Young are an offical partner of the Ryder Cup. They have recorded the European Captains’ leadership journey over a number of years. Below you will see Paul McGinley’s Blog to view other blogs and to see how EY have worked as a partner to the Ryder Cup click here.

2014 Ryder Cup: Captains’ blog archive


EY Ryder cup - Paul McGinley captain

Paul McGinley

Dealing with pressure

Posted: 12 March 2014

At a recent EY event in London, Paul McGinley explored the leadership and team-building challenges that he faces as Europe’s 2014 Ryder Cup captain. In this extract from the event, Paul explains his method for dealing with pressure.

When you’re performing at an elite level, like The Ryder Cup, the pressure is enormous. When you play, you are always under a lot of pressure. Of course that is nerve-racking but it is also very exciting. When you’re under pressure, the adrenaline can kick in, too. The most important thing in a situation like that is to remain calm. When we get under pressure, whether it’s at home, at work, on a football pitch or a golf course, there is a tendency to quicken up. And the more we quicken up and the more we get too hyper, the more things rush through our head. If your body and actions quicken up, your brain quickens up too, so too much information comes into your brain. This is when we overthink and overanalyze. So when pressure is applied, the best thing you can do is keep it simple. Calm down. Think back to the plans you have in place. They were the plans you made in the cold light of day, when the pressure was off, so trust that they are right.

When I faced a putt from 10 feet to win The Ryder Cup in 2002, I was very clear about what I was doing with my putting stroke. I was very clear about the line on which I had to hit the ball. I kept things simple. I didn’t allow worries to enter my mind: don’t leave the putt short, don’t miss it right, don’t miss it left, if you miss you are going to let the team down. What about the hundreds of millions of people watching on television? Instead, I thought: there is a ball, there is the putter in my hand, this is the line I have to hit the ball along in order to get it into that hole. By keeping things simple, I got the right result and the ball went in.

Managing across borders

Posted: 6 March 2014

At a recent EY event in London, Paul McGinley explored the leadership and team-building challenges that he faces as Europe’s 2014 Ryder Cup captain. In this extract from the event, Paul explores the challenge of managing a team whose members are based in different parts of the world.

It is a fact that a number of our team members have a base in the United States. To help me keep in touch with them, I have been doing some television commentary work. I commentated on five tournaments last year and plan to work on five tournaments this year. The five I did last year were based in Europe. This year, four of these events will be in America. This gives me a reason to be in America – and when I’m there, I’ll have the opportunity to catch up with them if they want to.

My communication with the players is something that I will let evolve naturally over the next nine months. I am wary of having too much dialogue with them because they are all successful professionals and all know what they are doing. I’ll just let them evolve into their respective seasons.


Individualism in a team environment

Posted: 27 February 2014

At a recent EY event in London, Paul McGinley explored the leadership and team-building challenges that he faces as Europe’s 2014 Ryder Cup captain. In this extract from the event, Paul explores the challenge of promoting diversity and individualism within a coherent team structure.

In the last Ryder Cup, Europe’s 12 players were drawn from eight different countries – with six different languages. So bringing these cultures together to form a cohesive unit is a real challenge. For example, one of the players, Sweden’s Peter Hanson, likes to eat dinner at 6:30 p.m. Then we had Miguel Ángel Jiménez, one of the vice-captains, who’s quite the opposite. He likes to eat at 11:00 p.m., because that’s the Spanish culture. So, to bridge this gap, the European team always has a running buffet from 6:00 p.m. till midnight. That’s one way we have of incorporating everybody, whatever their culture or personal preference. That element of individuality must remain, even though we are in a team environment for the week. You bring the players together with the common pursuit of winning The Ryder Cup, but the players must be left to feel comfortable as individuals too.


Building on success

Posted: 20 February 2014

At a recent EY event in London, Paul McGinley explored the leadership and team-building challenges that he faces as Europe’s 2014 Ryder Cup captain. In this extract from the event, Paul explores the challenge of building on success.

As a player and then as a vice-captain, I have seen up close how Europe has won five of the last six Ryder Cups. I have seen the template of success and how it works. I have spoken to the former captains. I see my job quite clearly as taking that template and enhancing it. I want to put my own identity on it and try to improve it a little in the best way I can, and then roll it out again. I don’t want to be a maverick and go in all of a sudden and change everything. The personnel may change, but I’ve seen what has worked and I want to keep doing it. A huge amount of work has been done by the various captains and players over the last two decades or so. This has built up the template for success and I want to tap into it again.


Overcoming adversity

Posted: 13 February 2014

At a recent EY event in London, Paul McGinley explored the leadership and team-building challenges that he faces as Europe’s 2014 Ryder Cup captain. In this extract from the event, Paul gives his take on overcoming adversity.

I loved playing Gaelic football when I was younger. I played golf for two months every summer, when the school holidays came along, but Gaelic football was my focus when I was growing up in Dublin. At the age of 19, I was just about to break into the Dublin first team. But disaster struck when I broke my knee. I was on crutches for nine months. I was devastated because I could no longer play the sport I loved.

At that stage, I was about an eight handicap in golf. I could no longer be a professional Gaelic football player, but becoming a professional golfer was, at that time, a million miles from my mind. Nevertheless, when I came off the crutches I started to play golf ↓ [… more]


Having already studied for a diploma in marketing, I worked for the European Community in Brussels for six months, and then for an investment company in Dublin. But I didn’t particularly like sitting behind a desk every day. Meanwhile, I was getting good at golf. The idea was coming into my mind that I might have the ability to become a professional golfer. I was a one handicap, but I was still not even in the top 100 players in Ireland at that stage, let alone at world-class standard.

I didn’t know what I was going to do for a living and I wanted to delay my decision. So I wrote away to numerous colleges in America, seeing if I could kill two birds with one stone by studying on a golf scholarship. All but one said no. They told me I was too old and not good enough. But this guy in San Diego wrote back to say he’d take a chance on me. I wouldn’t get a scholarship during the first year, he said, but if I made the golf team, I’d get one for the next two years. So I missed the first semester to save on costs and then I got a student loan. I got the money together and off I went.

In those two years, I went from being outside the top 100 golfers in Ireland to making the Great Britain and Ireland team for the 1991 Walker Cup – the amateur version of The Ryder Cup. The next year, I turned professional. And here I am now, 22 years later, Captain of Europe’s Ryder Cup Team.


Captain’s leadership journey

Posted: December 2013

In the run-up to the 2014 Ryder Cup, Europe’s captain Paul McGinley faces the challenging task of moulding 12 elite golfers – who usually compete against each other – into a high-performing team with a single objective: retaining the Ryder Cup.

In the run-up to the 2014 Ryder Cup, Europe’s captain Paul McGinley faces the challenging task of moulding 12 elite golfers – who usually compete against each other – into a high-performing team with a single objective: retaining The Ryder Cup. But the challenge extends beyond the players and vice-captains. There is a vast “team behind the team” including the caddies, the tailors of the players’ uniforms, the greenkeepers, the chefs, the event planners and many others who make The Ryder Cup possible. In these videos, Paul explores how he is preparing to knit the team together, explains his approach to the captaincy and looks ahead to his personal leadership journey that will culminate at Gleneagles in September 2014.


The winning putt in 2002

Posted: December 2013

In his latest blog post for EY, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain recalls the putt he made to win The Ryder Cup for Europe in 2002.

Back in 2002, Paul McGinley played in Europe’s Ryder Cup team, under the captaincy of Sam Torrance. Like most recent matches, this one was close. On the final afternoon of play, it became clear that the singles match between McGinley and Jim Furyk of the US could prove decisive. In front of expectant team-mates, and hundreds of millions of TV viewers around the world, McGinley stood on the 18th green at The Belfry, with the fate of The Ryder Cup in his hands.

Here, Paul reveals how he removed distractions from his mind and prepared to hit the putt of his life.

The build up

The real story begins on the previous hole. I was one down against Jim Furyk, playing the 17th. He had a 12-foot putt and I had a 10-foot putt, both for birdies. He missed. It left me with a putt to go all-square. I knew the points score was really close. I didn’t know how close it was, or how important my match was at that stage. I didn’t know whether or not it would be the winning point. But I was very much aware that my match was going to be hugely important. I stood over the putt on 17 and I holed it. So now it’s all-square playing the last.

On 18, we both missed the green left. Sam Torrance had spoken to me the night before and assured me that the reason why I was playing such a pivotal role in the team was because he knew that I could come through for him in a high-pressure situation. I’d done so the day before. On the Saturday afternoon, I played with Darren Clarke against Scott Hoch and Jim Furyk. I won the last hole to halve the match, which meant the teams were level going into the last day. On the back of that, Sam put me in that pivotal role in the singles.

So when I walked across the bridge on the 18th, Sam walked with me and explained why I was in this position. He asked me to do it for him and do it for the team. Immediately, rather than think “oh my god, all the pressure is on me”, I had a real sense of loyalty toward him. He’d instilled loyalty toward him and the team – and it made me doubly determined to get the ball up and down. As I walked by Jim’s ball, I could see that he had a pretty straightforward bunker shot – although the circumstances made sure it wasn’t that easy. Immediately, I thought he’s definitely going to get up and down from there and I need to get mine up and down too.

The 18th green

He nearly holed his bunker shot, but it went about 15 inches past the hole. By this stage, I’d chipped on to about 12 feet from the pin. I remember looking at his putt and I thought: he could miss that. It was downhill, 15 inches. With the nerves and the situation, he could miss it. Then, immediately, I had a second thought. No – give him the putt. Clear the decks mentally. Rather than think “oh well, if I miss it, he might miss his”, I wanted to have clarity in my head. So I said: “That’s ok, Jim.” I gave him the putt. And he looked at me as if to say: “Are you sure?” I repeated: “That’s ok, Jim.” He looked at me again as he bent down to pick up his ball. I indicated for him to pick it up. So he did.

Now, the odds are he wasn’t going to miss it. But the point about it is that, in my own head, I had a clear thought that I wanted to clear the decks here. It’s up to me, or it’s not up to me. I’m going to do it, or I’m not. I don’t want to think: well I might miss and he might miss. As I read the putt, I remember my caddy started talking to me about the line. I said: “I got it.” He continued talking and I said again, raising my voice: “I got it.”

The putt

If you look back at the video, I hit the putt extremely quickly. And not because I was nervous – although I was. It was because I had formed a picture in my head of what I needed to do. I envisaged the ball breaking about six inches left to right across the hill. I knew it was a sliding putt. So when I stood over it, I saw the line. I saw what I had to do.

People ask me if I knew that I was going to hole the putt. And the answer is no. But I did know I was going to hit a great putt. I didn’t think: this is going to be a piece of cake, I’m definitely going to make it. I didn’t think that way. It could have hit a spike mark, it could have lipped out of the hole. But I knew that I was going to make a great effort at the putt. And that was very comforting.

The second thing people ask is whether I was nervous. Of course I was nervous. But I can honestly say that there was also a huge sense of excitement. I couldn’t wait to hit the putt. I remember hitting the putt – and it felt like I hit it so hard. Because I hit it so firmly, as I looked up it was about two-and-a-half feet away from the hole. It was tracking in left to right. I just knew then, because there was such a true roll on the ball, there was no way that it could miss.

The aftermath

As the putt went in the hole I raised my arms in the air. And you know when they say time stands still? Well, time did seem to stand still. I remember having two thoughts. First of all, why are my teammates not jumping on top of me? I knew they were close to me, by the edge of the green. And then I had a second thought. Remember, my arms were in the air and I was looking to the sky. And suddenly I thought: maybe it lipped out. Maybe it didn’t go in the hole. Just as this thought went through my head, I think it was Sergio Garcia who was the first to jump on top of me. And then everyone in the team jumped on me.

That was what I honestly thought as I put my arms in the air. Now, if you watch the video footage, it was only two seconds between the ball going in and the players jumping on top of me. But it felt like an eternity.

The truly great sportsmen have the ability to feel excitement rather than nerves in the highest-pressure situations. I couldn’t feel that enough in my career. I wish I had. I’ve been in a lot of pressure situations when I felt only pure nerves. The excitement wasn’t the same. It was pure fear. Whenever I played in The Ryder Cup, I’ve had that great sense of excitement in high-pressure moments. But I’ve played in individual events where it hasn’t been there.

The true greats – the likes of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan – get such a thrill out of the excitement of the high-pressure situation they are in. That, I think, is what distinguishes phenomenal people under pressure.


Meet the 2014 Captain

Posted: December 2013

In January 2013, Irishman Paul McGinley was named as Europe’s captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Paul McGinley played an instrumental role as a vice captain in Europe’s 2010 and 2012 Ryder Cup victories. Now he has stepped up to the top job and will lead the European team’s defence of the Cup at Gleneagles.

In 2009 and 2011, McGinley demonstrated his fine leadership skills in team golf when he led Great Britain and Ireland to victory over Continental Europe in the Vivendi Seve Trophy.

The Irishman has always been passionate about the team format and has played in three consecutive successful Ryder Cup teams. The first was in 2002, when he holed the winning putt. As well as The Ryder Cup, McGinley has been on a winning team in the Vivendi Seve Trophy, the World Cup and the Royal Trophy.

A winner of four European Tour titles, his best campaign to date came in 2005, when he finished runner-up three times before securing victory in the Volvo Masters.

McGinley might have pursued a career in Gaelic football, but a broken knee cap sustained when he was 19 put paid to that dream – and he had a sixth knee operation towards the end of 2009.

He played in the 1991 Walker Cup and gained his European Tour card on his first visit to the Qualifying School later the same year.

In 2014, he will pit his wits against one of his golfing heroes – US team captain Tom Watson.


McGinley talks teambuilding as qualifying starts in Europe

Posted: November 2013

The 40th Ryder Cup will be held at The Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland, in September 2014. Before then, golfers from Europe and the US will battle it out to win a place on their respective 12-man team.

Europe’s qualification process got under way on Thursday, August 29 at the ISPS Handa Wales Open. This was the first tournament at which players can earn points for the European Points List. The players who fill the top four positions on this list at the end of August 2014 will qualify for The Ryder Cup team. They will be joined by the top five players on the World Points List. The final three players will be picked by Paul McGinley, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain. McGinley told EY: “I determined that there would be four off The Race to Dubai, five off the World Rankings and three captain’s picks. It’s important that the guys are competitive during the year and they know where they stand. I want the players to feel that if they play well enough they’ll make the team.”

To mark the beginning of Europe’s qualification process, Paul McGinley spoke to EY about how he can spot a good team golfer and how he will approach the task of building a high-performing team.


EY - McGinley

Communication is key

I’m very much aware that a team is made up of so many different individuals. And in a sport like golf where, 51 weeks a year, we’re trying to beat each other, to come together every 104 weeks for The Ryder Cup requires a different mindset.

The first task is to communicate with the player; find out where he’s at, what he thinks, what his views are. Initially, I think it is very important to listen rather than speak as a leader. You need to understand each individual and appreciate that there’s no right or wrong in terms of where people are coming from. You do things and make decisions for individuals according to their view on things. I want to hear their views on the week, who they like to partner, what way they see the week evolving. It’s important to get inside the players’ heads and hear their views on who they’d like to play with. They must feel like they can speak to their captain in confidence and know that the conversation will go no further.

Team members contribute in different ways. You take a guy who may be quiet in the team room and not say a whole lot, yet he might make a huge contribution. He might be a team player and a real giver. Everybody is different and it’s important to find out how. This is where communication with the player is the ultimate starting point from which everything else evolves.

Spotting a team player

I can tell much about the qualities of a guy in the team by his body language. Let me give an example. Think back to Medinah, when Ian Poulter holed a putt to win a point on the Saturday night and Martin Kaymer holed what turned out to be the winning putt the following day. There was one common denominator between the two that a lot of people missed. For both putts, the team had congregated around the front right-hand portion of the green – caddies, players, everybody. As a player, subconsciously you know where they are. And what was interesting was that when both Poulter and Kaymer holed their putts, the first thing they did was turn around to their team with their fists clenched. That’s the body language of two great team players. You can contrast that with a footballer who, when he scores a goal, brushes aside his teammates so that he can run to the crowd as quickly as possible and then turn around and point to his name on the back of his shirt.

Wisdom from Woosie

In 2006, I played in the team captained by Ian Woosnam. He knew he had a very strong team. He’d inherited a team captained by Bernhard Langer that won by a wide margin two years previously and the large majority of the players had made the team again. What I learned from his captaincy was that he kept it simple. He didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. He rolled out the template that had worked in the past. He put the pairings together that had been successful. We went on to match Langer’s margin of victory. Keeping things simple is not always an easy thing to do. But he managed to keep the whole structure behind the team very simple that week, and that was a real insight for me. 


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