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McGinley makes a dignified entrance as tweeters have their say

The question said a lot about the way business is conducted these days.

Paul McGinley has been well groomed for one of the most coveted jobs  in golf, having served under two winning European captains. Picture: Getty Images
Paul McGinley has been well groomed for one of the most coveted jobs in golf, having served under two winning European captains. Picture: Getty Images

"Are you the first Ryder Cup captain to be elected by Twitter?" asked one reporter in reference to the frenzy of activity on the social media site in the fraught build-up to last night's unveiling of Paul McGinley as Europe's Ryder Cup captain for Gleneagles in 2014.

"I'm not a twit," responded McGinley with a smile. "I've never been on Twitter. One thing I've learned from this, though, is the power of Twitter."

Player power certainly helped the cause. Led by the online rallying cries of the world No.1 Rory McIlroy, McGinley swept into office on a technological tidal wave of support. In the minutes before he was officially paraded as the new skipper at a press conference in Abu Dhabi, some furious, finger-tapping Tweeters were already hailing the new man during a process that seemed to have more leaks than a cistern on a torpedoed battleship.

When the likeable, highly respected Dubliner took centre stage to be welcomed as the first Irish captain in the biennial contest's history, it was difficult to say what was more dazzling; his teeth, in a delighted beam that could've spanned The Liffey, or the gleaming, freshly buffed-up Ryder Cup that was plonked on the table in front of him. McGinley's smile was justified and it will have been mirrored by countless others who had campaigned for this diligent, passionate and articulate professional who has served with such distinction as both a Ryder Cup player and trusted vice-captain down the seasons.

This was, plain and simply, the correct decision; a victory for common sense at the conclusion of a prolonged palaver that was in danger of becoming a shambles as names were tossed about in gay abandon in the media. In the end, Thomas Bjorn, the chairman of the European Tour's Tournament Committee, insisted that the final choice was unanimous".

After Darren Clarke opted to step out of the running, it had, seemingly, come down to a two-horse race between McGinley and Colin Montgomerie, although Bjorn did admit that the names of Sandy Lyle, Paul Lawrie and Miguel Angel Jimenez had also been considered at last night's get-together.

Lawrie, of course, is eager to be at Gleneagles as a player in two years' time and informed Herald Sport recently that he had said 'no' when a tour official had asked him if he would like to be considered as captain.

The reaction had the bold Monty marched triumphantly on to the stage to take the captain's armband for a second time would've been interesting to say the least.

Two years ago, as the champagne corks popped at Celtic Manor, the then European leader Montgomerie said "I will not be doing this again, I can assure you."

Thrust back into the frame for something of a misty-eyed, romantic return to his homeland, however, the Scot recently suggested that it would be a "dream come true". No disrespect to Monty, but that dream, thankfully, never came to pass. The big-hitters, like McIlroy, were all pretty vocal in their insistence that the job should remain a one-hit affair. Would there have been some form of mutiny had the committee gone against the words of the European Tour's most prized asset and global golfing superstar?

Team Europe have won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups. Those entrusted with the choice of captain have stuck by their guns and not made some knee-jerk appointment to counter the USA's somewhat radical option of the golden oldie, Tom Watson.

The American veteran was quick to respond to last night's announcement and Tweeted – yes, folks, the 63-year-old Watson is a dab hand with new technology – that "you're a class act" in reference to his European counterpart.

And he certainly is. All through this high-profile process, which has grown and grown on the back of a inevitable media bandwagon, the 46-year-old has conducted himself with a quiet dignity while others have made noises. That has only added to the high regard in which he is held.

"I was very tempted to speak up to be honest," admitted McGinley.

"But I have a great wife and great friends around me. I respect their opinion and they told me to stay dignified in this whole thing and don't get involved. I stepped back and watched it grow legs and it really did become a big, big story."

The speculation and the rumour-mongering is now over and we can all calm down for a spell before the build-up to Gleneagles gathers pace.

McGinley will get to realise a lifetime ambition and it is only right. Ever since he was handed the captaincy of Great Britain & Ireland in the Seve Trophy in 2009 – McIlory said he was "the best captain I've ever played under" – the man who holed the winning putt in the 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry has been groomed for this grandest of posts.

He has accumulated a wealth of knowledge from his three stints as an able deputy and is now eager to put his various theories into practice. The fact he'll be going toe-to-toe with one of his great heroes in the decorated Watson is an added bonus.

"To lead the European Team, arguably the strongest in terms of depth we've had, is going to be a huge honour," he said. "It's a very humbling experience."

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