Paul McGinley's brilliant country song analogy for Rory McIlroy was absolutely bang on the money
Paul McGinley's career may not have yielded the same level of success as Padraig Harrington or Rory McIlroy, but the Dubliner has fashioned a new image for himself as one of the game's most astute pundits.
Not only did McGinley offer future Ryder Cup captains the perfect blueprint for success by leading Europe to a dominant 16.5-11.5 victory at Gleneagles in 2014, he has since become one of golf's most likeable, erudite commentators.
What became abundantly clear during the countless interviews and press conferences McGinley gave as part of his captaincy was his deep knowledge of the game. An intelligent and articulate voice, when the four-time European Tour winner speaks on Sky Sports, you tend to listen.
So it was of particular interest to hear his thoughts on McIlroy ahead of The Masters next week.
He didn't disappoint.
“It’s like the song says,” McGinley told reporters on Wednesday. “You have to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em," referring to Kenny Rogers' The Gambler.
It reinforced the idea that McGinley doesn't merely go through the motions when addressing the media. He's full of great soundbites, analogies and, of course, expert insight.
He also happens to be right, explaining that McIlroy's swashbuckling brand of golf has sometimes produced catastrophic moments, like the back-nine capitulation on Sunday at the 2011 Masters.
“One of the things that makes Rory very charismatic is he plays so aggressively, and sometimes that counts against him,” McGinley added.
“Jack Nicklaus, who I have spent time with a couple of times since I’ve worked with Sky, is very clear that it’s a golf course you have to play quite conservatively in a lot of ways. Jordan Spieth also said the same thing.
“You have got to pick your moments to attack. So I think it is a strategic thing, a course management thing and the ability to respect the course in some ways and attack the hell out of it at other times.
“What Rory has learned over the years is that there are times when you just don’t attack. There are times when you have to play away from pins to the centre of greens."
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If McIlroy wins next week, he'll join golf's most elite group: the Grand Slam winners. The Holywood native has three out of the four majors in his trophy cabinet but the Green Jacket has so far eluded him.
McGinley believes that, off the back of the 28-year-old's stunning return to the winners' circle at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, McIlroy has what it takes to win at Augusta if he plays his way into contention.
“There’s four or five guys who’ve ever won the Grand Slam," the 51-year-old said. "There’s a reason why only four our five have won it, it’s a very difficult thing to accomplish. He’s on the edge of history.
"Rory is on form and he’s got to give himself chances because, apart from a few years ago, he really hasn’t contended to win. You haven’t really seen him. He’s had a few top tens but he’s never really threatened. Getting in contention is big for him but fireworks can happen like at Bay Hill.”
Considering his comeback, Tiger Woods was always going to be a topic of conversation. After the 42-year-old's second-place finish behind Paul Casey at the Valspar Championship a few weeks ago, many observers have boldly predicted that Woods will be the one to slip into golf's most famous garment come next Sunday.
McGinley, however, is not so sure.
"The thing about it is, everyone loves a comeback. Hollywood loves a comeback. We all love the underdog, we all love the guy fighting against the odds. We all know how low Tiger has fallen and it would be monumental to come back and win.
"I think he's heading in the right direction, but I'm not sure if he's ready to win that major championship yet. I think he needs a few more tournaments under his belt."
McGinley admitted that the intense spotlight on Woods may be to McIlroy's benefit. We, for one, hope that statement turns out to be a prophetic one.
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