Ryder Cup 2014: Paul McGinley Gets the Edge on Tom Watson

Monday September 29th, 2014

Here’s your quick and subjective guide to which captain gave his team the edge at the 2014 Ryder Cup.

BEST USE OF HIS PLAYERS: Captain Paul McGinley woke up Sunday morning at Gleneagles in the same sweet spot as the guy who’s been dealt a pair of face cards at the blackjack table -- just sit tight and you're probably going to win. All the Team Europe skipper had to do was roll out his lineup and be sure to have a change of clothes ready to replace his champagne-soaked threads later on. That’s what he did. McGinley wisely led off with Graeme McDowell, one of the world’s best putters, who earned a 2 and 1 victory over Jordan Spieth. Rory McIlroy went off third and rolled Rickie Fowler early, 5 and 4, and Europe suddenly had two of the four points it needed to retain the cup. The rest of the European team methodically erased an early US advantage until Jamie Donaldson put the hosts over the top with his 4 and 3 triumph over Keegan Bradley.

EDGE: Paul McGinley

BIGGEST SURPRISE MOVE: There were few surprises on the course Sunday, unless you count Team USA briefly leading the early matches and threatening to make the final score competitive. That didn’t last as Martin Kaymer picked off Bubba Watson (0-3 this week) and Sergio Garcia defeated Jim Furyk to help set up Donaldson’s clinching point. The biggest surprise came off the course in the post-round press conference when Phil Mickelson icily buried Tom Watson by saying the USA erred in going away from the winning strategy captain Paul Azinger used in 2008.

EDGE: Paul McGinley

(PHOTOS: Sports Illustrated's best pictures from the 2014 Ryder Cup)

Paul Crawford

THE VERDICT: McGinley didn’t make a wrong move all week. Even the tartan jacket and gilet the British press knocked him for wasn’t that bad. Hey, it kept him warm on the Edinburgh Airport tarmac. McGinley superbly mixed and matched his players, who delivered. McDowell/Victor Dubuisson (3-0) was a masterstroke as was teaming Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, who set a Ryder Cup record with a best-ball score of 52 through 16 holes. The players on the European team just get the Ryder Cup in a way the Americans don’t – unless their captain forces them to. Azinger did that, but Watson didn’t. His key strategic mistake came Friday when he benched Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed in the afternoon session. The two most passionate players were left on the sidelines, wondering why their captain wouldn’t play them after they had just crushed hometown hero Stephen Gallacher and the maniacal Ian Poulter. Would playing those two have made a difference? We'll be asking that question until 2016 at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

EDGE: Paul McGinley

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