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Unflustered Paul McGinley looks a natural born leader

By Karl McGinty

Like Brian Cody or Alex Ferguson, Paul McGinley is a natural. The Dubliner appears to have been born with a gift for man management, though his time at the highest summit of his sport will be crammed into three crazy, feverish days.

After 20 months of preparation, in which McGinley has engaged in every decision, great and small, which will affect the European Ryder Cup team, his team, at Gleneagles, McGinley's 72 hours of destiny against the United States are just 17 days away.

Still, Europe's captain appears utterly at ease, a man in his natural element.

Whether in front of the RTE cameras on 'The Late Late Show' last Friday or in a Q&A session with more than 500 of his clubmates at The Grange Golf Club in Rathfarnham the following evening, the Dubliner performed with affable assurance, the calm certainty of a commanding general. The diminutive Irishman's attention to detail in the build-up to D-Day stretches across a broad range from the sublime to the incredibly meticulous.

Though fiercely loyal to the template which has brought Europe seven victories in the past nine Ryder Cups, and an unbeaten home record stretching back to 1993, when current US captain Tom Watson led the US to a win at The Belfry, McGinley has made subtle but innovative changes in a range of areas.

Even in the company of so many boyhood friends on Saturday, there were many secrets he could not tell. "There's so much more I could say, if it was October," he told the large crowd at Grange.

Like the reason why he named five assistants instead of the customary three or four. "I told the European Tour the very first day I became captain that I was going to have five vice-captains and there is a specific reason but I'm not going to tell you what it is," he said. "You'll find it out during the week. I don't want to give Tom Watson a heads up on it."

McGinley was more forthcoming on his plans for the course at Gleneagles, plus a plan he devised with Celtic Manor for a similar set-up during the Welsh Open, offering those players who wanted it an ideal warm-up for the Ryder Cup.

He felt able to mention this, McGinley suggested (tongue-in-cheek?) because entries for Wales closed last Thursday and it's too late for any Americans to opt-in.

"As home captain, I've the right to set up the course the way I want," he said. "Two years ago, Davis Love set up Medinah with virtually no rough because he figured his team were longer but not maybe as straight as us. They cut down a number of trees and the rough and made the greens as quick as they could.

"The fairways are the width they'd be on the European Tour and the rough height will be the same. The Welsh Open is on the week before and a handful of our Ryder Cup players will be playing.

"So I've been aligning the set-up of Wales with how it'll be in Gleneagles. The players (Lee Westwood, Jamie Donaldson, Thomas Bjorn, Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher) will have everything they need there in terms of preparing, the fairway widths and height of the rough in particular." Asked if his captaincy would be as intense as Seve's at Valderrama, McGinley assured that once the action starts, he'll leave the arena to those for whom it was intended.

"I've done two captaincies at the Seve Trophy," he said. "I remained in the background at both. All my work was done off the course. All the effort was in preparing the players for them to come and play.

"I'll be taking a step back. The players and their caddies know each other best and every day make decisions that are right for them. If I need to let a player know something, usually it'll be through his caddie, who knows best when and how to tell his man."

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