On the heels of his near-perfect run as captain of Team Europe at the 2014 Ryder Cup, Paul McGinley has been named captain of the Irish Olympic team.
“It was something I was very happy to accept, and it’s a great follow up to the Ryder Cup captaincy representing our country in one of the biggest sporting events in the world having done one of the other biggest sporting events in the world,” McGinley said at the announcement. “I’m looking forward to it with the very stellar team that I think we’re going to have.”
That team is sure to include the world’s No. 1 player in Rory McIlroy. His partner is likely to be fellow Ryder Cupper Graeme McDowell, but that pairing is not set in stone. If a player reaches the top 15 in the World Ranking, he is automatically included in the field, with a maximum of four players from one country. Ireland has a wealth of players to choose from, so multiple players could potentially find themselves as automatic qualifiers. While the McIlroy/McDowell pairing is likely with McDowell currently ranked 15th in the world, McGinley said Ireland has the luxury of several players with potential to position themselves as automatic qualifiers.
“Shane Lowry has come on very strong this year and had a good year,” McGinley said. “Don’t forget Padraig Harrington who come up with a great win last week. He’s gone on the record and said he wants to play in the Olympics, and one thing I’ve learned is to never discount Padraig Harrington.”
As far as McGinley’s role during the Olympics, McGinley said his main job will be a buffer between the Olympic Council of Ireland and his two players. McGinley anticipates a test tournament towards the end of 2015 to be played at Rio in addition to several information gathering trips to the course.
“It’s a new adventure for all of us,” McGinley said. “It’s been so long since golf was in the Olympics. We weren’t even around when it was the last time. All in all, it’s a good package, and we have a good chance at winning a medal,” McGinley said.