Paul McGinley, showdown with Tiger Woods

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Paul McGinley, showdown with Tiger Woods
Paul McGinley, showdown with Tiger Woods

Paul McGinley has been a staple in the European Team Room for nearly every Ryder Cup over the past two decades. In that period of time he was a player, vice captain and in 2014 he wore the captain's armband. In his Ryder Cup career, he was part of three winning teams as a player and captained the team at Gleneagles.

He has had some great Ryder Cup moments, like when he potted the winning putt as a rookie in 2002. Or when he won as captain at Gleneagles in 2014. Some time ago he told some anecdotes of his experiences in the team, but the story I want to bring back to you is that of 2004, the showdown with Tiger.

Paul McGinley, statements

“It was Saturday, the day before Padraig Harrrington had paired well with Monty (Colin Montgomerie) bringing home a point over the infamous Woods – Mickelson duo. The next morning he was supposed to play fourballs, but he didn't feel like it.

So he asks Bernhard Langer not to consider him in the afternoon: it's too late, the couplings are blocked. Then the draw comes out: me and Paddy (Harrington's nickname) against Tiger and Davis Love.
So I find myself playing on one of the best golf courses of my life (Oakland Hills ed.), giddy at the idea of playing against Tiger Woods for the first time.

But Padraig was pessimistic, which is unusual for him. We had lunch, but my attempt to get him to react didn't work. However, we arrive on the 1 tee for the foursomes. Padraig shoots first and you always know when he's uncomfortable.

He fidgets, seizes and re-seizes the stick. Finally he steps forward and hits the biggest screw hook ever seen. Hard left, into the trees. Then Tiger with a 300 yard bomb to center fairway. He leaves. The American crowd chants and shouts, "Tiger, Tiger!" We go looking for the ball and we manage to find it very close to an out of bounds to the left bordered by a fence.

There are about 10 trees that I have to go through to get back into the fairway making a limited backswing right from the fence itself. In short I hit it on the downswing and with a shank I take the tree in front of me. Padraig hits his bouncing shot off a tree and back into the fence.

I'm back to playing again. Tree again. And so does he. We've already played five rounds. We look into the fairway and there's Tiger and Davis standing with their hands on their hips. They didn't even play the second one. They're waiting for these two Irishmen who are hitting trees.

We looked at each other and decided to lift the ball and go to the next hole. On hole 2, a par 5 dogleg left Davis deposits a cannonball down the center of the course and gives me 20 yards. Padraig sets my second shot at about 80, my preferred distance.

Tiger hits a second 3 iron that comes out like a rocket. Straight, so straight that it looks like a frozen rope on the shaft. And then the noise he makes! Keep in mind I've never played Tiger before. I kept saying to myself: “Good heavens, this here is something different”.

The ball lands on the green and the American fans go crazy. I thought he crashed. We run up there to take a look: it's twenty centimeters from the hole. 2 UP after two holes. At this point we both think it could finish 9 & 8 (9 up to 8 from the end n.d.a.) or at most 7 & 6.

In short, embarrassing. So, I told Padraig, let's change our strategy. Let's double bogey on the first and par on the second. So we are 2 above par. Let's go back even. I felt like I connected with him, and from then on we started playing against the pitch and forgot who we were playing against.

Some birdies came in, they made a mistake, and before we knew it we were up 1 up and beat Tiger and Davis. All the Irish from New York to Boston sang to us around the last green. We will never forget it." Europe won 18½ to 9½.

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