Robert Rock on Paul McGinleyAugust, 2014
I'll always be grateful for the way Paul McGinley captained me
WHEN Europe appointed Paul McGinley as Ryder Cup captain I thought it was a great choice. I played under him twice in the Seve Trophy and I’ve probably learned most of my matchplay tactics off him.
He was awesome as a captain and great to me. I didn’t have massive amounts of matchplay experience as I hadn’t played for England as an amateur so I was trying to learn as quickly as I could. The overriding theme was, if you play in pairs then you have to have two balls in play all the time.
It wasn’t the approach where one guy goes for it or the longer hitter goes for it or anything like that, that was against the rules.
He had a plan to stick to and definitely made it clear to every single one of us what our role was in carrying that plan out. Everyone was comfortable, everyone knew what was expected and what we were trying to do, even to the point to what we were all supposed to say about our team and the opponents so there was a clear team message.
In 2009 I lost my first two matches and he gave me a bit of a talking to. I was expecting to be dropped but he still had faith in me and told me I was playing well. So when your captain has that confidence in you, because it was my first time alongside more experienced players, that move put me in a slightly different frame of mind and I had a great tournament after that, winning my last three matches.
The right talking to, at the right time with the right player, can turn it around.
In 2011 I partnered Ian Poulter in the first two matches and he really is the expert at matchplay. He was fantastic, he was so excited about it even from the start. In the
warm-up he’ll have a little friendly niggle at the opponents and try to get them wound up a little bit.
I always remember feeling like I let the side down as he missed the green into a horrible bunker and I followed him in when I should have just hit the green. We won our first match and the next day we were both on the fairway against Peter Hanson and Alex Noren.
I always remember feeling like I let the side down as he missed the green into a horrible bunker and I followed him in when I should have just hit the green.
Even then he walked into the bunker and said something like ‘watch this, I’ll still hole this, Rocky’. He expects a lot of himself and it’s been no surprise to see him deliver so well in recent Ryder Cups.
For me your best partners are your steady partners. Any great player is absolutely fine obviously but I think somebody like Francesco Molinari would be an awesome partner – you know he’ll hit fairways and greens and then have a good chance of holing the putt. So when you know he’s that steady you don’t feel like you’ve got the weight of the team on your shoulders.
I don’t think it really matters how you get on as friends as there is a job to do and it doesn’t matter whether you’re having a good crack while you’re doing it as long as you get it done.
If I did ever play in a Ryder Cup I don’t think I would mind where I played in the singles. I’ve got a different faith in my abilities to play under pressure these days after playing with Tiger, and I didn’t collapse then, so I think I can play with anyone.
I might get beat but it won’t be through being overly bothered by who it is.
After Graeme McDowell played so amazingly over those last few holes at Celtic Manor I saw him the following week and told him that I didn’t know how he managed to handle all that pressure.
Now I don’t think that – which I don’t mean in a conceited way. A couple of things can change your view of how you might cope with a situation and I’d welcome the challenge of having a go at it now, whereas before I’d think someone else can do that.
Before, I thought there’d be so many people expecting so much, that everyone’s moods for the next few days are all going to be dependent on how you play and how the whole continent expected things of you. It’s a lot of pressure isn’t it.
You’ve got to want that situation, I think, to be any good at it. And I would now.