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Paul McGinley relishing Tom Watson showdown

By Karl MacGinty

Tom Watson, at 63, is a golf legend and a gentleman. Yet neatly concealed behind his charm is a man of steel.

Watson may appear avuncular but he's still as sharp as a cut-throat razor, as he proved by getting within one stroke of the greatest Major championship victory of all time at the 2009 British Open in Turnberry.

European captain Paul McGinley has no hesitation in admitting that Watson, his opposite number at September's Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, has been his golfing hero since boyhood.

Given the opportunity to shake Watson's hand and look him squarely in the eye as an adversary, the Dubliner was delighted to note the hard glint of the warrior he always knew lay within this eight-time Major winner.

Asked to put what he perceived into words, McGinley said: "A competitor, the most ferocious competitor. There's an edge. He's got an edge. He won't give an inch and I know that. I don't have a problem with that; in fact, I'm kind of relishing it."

It's a special intensity. One which McGinley compares favourably to that of a renowned former Nottingham Forest, Manchester United and Republic of Ireland footballer.

"Tom Watson and Roy Keane would have a great conversation, wouldn't they?"

However, McGinley has no desire to engage in deeper analysis of the American captain or his team.

"I know Tom Watson is perceived one way and I'm perceived another," he said. "I'm not going to be able to change that. Put my playing record up against Tom Watson's and it pales into complete insignificance. Yet this is not Tom Watson playing golf against Paul McGinley. This is a battle of leadership and captaincy against Tom Watson.

"Ultimately, it's not really about the captains. We make the decisions but he or I could play a blinder as a captain at Gleneagles and our team still could lose. It's all about the 24 that are playing."

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