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Ryder Cup bid in safe hands

By Karl McGinty

It all comes down to trust!

Paul McGinley unveiled Des Smyth and Sam Torrance as his Ryder Cup vice-captains in Government Buildings in Dublin yesterday but revealed the decision was made literally within hours of his appointment 14 months ago.

In his own inimitable way, Torrance compared the torture of having to keep such "fantastic" news to himself for more than a year to receiving an honour from the Queen ... "you want to tell the world but you're sworn to secrecy".

If McGinley's choice of his first two lieutenants was instant, it was based on decades of friendship.

Time in which the European skipper learned to rely implicitly on the judgment of Torrance, (60), his first Ryder Cup captain at the Belfry in 2002, and Smyth, (61), a mentor and confidant since McGinley first met him at Baltray as a 17-year-old amateur.

As the pressure mounts on McGinley in the run-up to September's showdown at Gleneagles, and especially in the wild, adrenalin-fuelled whirl of Ryder Cup week, key decisions inevitably must be based on the opinion and the instincts of his assistants.

Which also explains why US captain Tom Watson asked two of his oldest friends, Ray Floyd, (71), and Andy North, (63), to be at his side in Scotland.

"The captain can't be everywhere that week but he has to know what's going on to make informed decisions," explained Smyth, who played for Europe in the 1979 and 1981 Ryder Cups and was a member of Ian Woosnam's backroom team at the 2006 matches in The K Club.

"I remember getting instructions from Ian to watch this player or that, 'tell me how he's playing, talk to him and give me the feedback'. The captain's under pressure that week with media briefings, TV interviews, making speeches or such line.

"The vice-captaincy is a subtle role, it's not in your face, but it is very relevant."

Torrance intoned: "The captain is almost like your headmaster. He's quite a daunting figure to a player. And when you've got a problem, sometimes the player would hide that problem rather than go and speak to the captain.

"That's why we're there. We're the buffer," added the Scot. "So the player will come to us and we can sort that problem 99.9% of the time. If we can't, then we'll take it to Paul. He's got enough on his mind that week.

"That's one thing we'll do that week," said Torrance, adding impishly: "And give our experience. I'm a good people person, I get on well in the team room."

Smyth's first mission for McGinley will be to assist Miguel Angel Jimenez in his duties as playing-captain of the 10-man European team at the March 27-29 EurAsia Cup match in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In Smyth's opinion, the appointment of Ireland's first Ryder Cup captain was "long overdue. I think it's wonderful we have an Irish captain, I think we deserve that."

McGinley, who insists he'll not name another vice-captain until after the European team is finalised on September 2, said of his two assistants: "Des was very much a mentor for me when I came out on Tour and he was the same with the rest of the young Irish guys.

"He kept an eye out for us.

"Obviously Sam and I have a very close bonding since 2002. That turned out a great week for both of us for different reasons," McGinley went on.

"The work he did behind the scenes at the Belfry impressed me most," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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