CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND — Meeting on the first tee at Carnoustie this morning must have brought back good memories for Paul McGinley and J.J. Henry. At last year’s Ryder Cup they halved their Sunday singles match when McGinley conceded Henry’s putt after a streaker disturbed play by running across the green and diving into a lake.
There were no streakers in sight on a damp day at the Open, but McGinley made an attention-grabbing run to the top of the leaderboard. McGinley birdied three of the first four holes on his way to a 67, which was good for the solo lead for much of Thursday.
“I haven’t heard cheers like that for me since the last time I played with J.J.,” McGinley smiled. “It gave me a great buzz and I was able to kick on from there.”
The Irishman is best known for holing the winning putt at the 2002 Ryder Cup, but he hasn’t performed to that level at the majors.
“Yeah, I’ve lacked something,” he admitted. “But I don’t know what the X-factor is. I always remember what Tom Weiskopf once said. He said when he was playing well, he could never understand how he ever played badly. And when he was playing badly, he could never understand how he ever played well. That sums me up.”
McGinley has a poor record in the Open. After his round he recalled playing with Tom Lehman, the eventual winner, in the third round at Royal Lytham in 1996, when Lehman shot 64.
“It was a circus,” McGinley said. “There were about 40 photographers around the greens and just off the tee boxes. I hadn’t seen anything like that before, and the whole thing overawed me. It was a big learning curve. That was the first time I was really propelled onto the world stage.”
Now he is back in the spotlight and hoping the advice he has been receiving this week from Padraig Harrington and mental-game guru Dr. Bob Rotella keeps him there. He met Rotella for the first time on Wednesday and spent an hour with him discussing how to control his impatience.
“My Achilles heel has always been playing too aggressively,” he said. “And Padraig was telling me how a score evolves. He is one of the best in the world at that.”
The pint-sized Irishman lacks the length off the tee to overpower a course measuring 7,431 yards.
“But there’s more than one way to skin a cat,” he said. “What I can do is have good ball control and course management, and putt well. And those three things I did today.”