McGinley aims for hot Gulf tour

Irish golfer Paul McGinley talks Ryder Cup, hot streaks, and the 'Gulf Swing'.

    Ireland's Paul McGinley with the Mother of Pearl
    Trophy at Doha Golf Club [Qatar Masters]
    Looking down the fairway of the 18th hole from the balcony of the newly built sponsors' marquee at Doha Golf Club, Paul McGinley could be forgiven for feeling right at home.

    After all, the Irish golfer has played in all ten Qatar Masters tournaments since its inception in 1998, and currently resides in a recently completed dwelling that overlooks picturesque Sunningdale Golf Course in Berkshire, England.

    McGinley, a member of Europe's Ryder Cup winning teams in 2002, 2004 and 2006, made his way to the Middle East early in preparation for the three-leg 'Gulf Swing', with back-to-back tournaments in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai.

    The 41-year-old had been scheduled to play in the Royal Trophy Championship in Bangkok, but the competition was postponed in respect of Thailand's mourning period over the passing of Princess Galyani Vadhana earlier this month.

    "I wasn't intending to play in Abu Dhabi, but Bangkok was cancelled, so now I'm out here doing some practice and I'll play Abu Dhabi and obviously be back for the Qatar Masters," McGinley told Al Jazeera.

    "Doha is a place I love to come to, so I thought I'd do my practice here.

    "It's one of the best golf courses we play on the tour, and it gets better every year. It's one of my favourite places to play."

    Lowest finish

    The 2007 season was one to forget for McGinley as he slipped out of the world's top 200 and fell to 74th on the Order of Merit, resulting in his lowest finish since his rookie year on the Tour in 1992.

    However the Irishman insisted his results last year appeared worse than they actually were, and that he was only one hot streak away from a tournament win.

    There was only one simple thing wrong last year - I didn't have any hot finishes
    "There was only one simple thing wrong last year - I didn't have any hot finishes. I only missed three cuts all year," McGinley said.

    "I played with a lot of consistency, but I didn't have a hot week at any stage. I never got hot where things went for me and I shot low scores, and that's what was missing.

    "There were a lot of weeks where I played very solidly without doing anything special.

    "So it wasn't a disastrous year, my scoring average was quite decent but the problem was I didn't have any low scores and didn't have a hot spell."

    Arguably the biggest reason McGinley must improve his form in 2008 is to make it into the Ryder Cup team as Europe go for an unprecedented fourth-successive victory over the USA, with the match play event to be held at Valhalla in Kentucky this year.

    "I've played the last three and I'd love to play again this time. But I've got to become hotter than I did last year," said McGinley.

    "The big cheques and the big finishes are what make Ryder Cup teams, and I've got to start producing some of those if I'm going to make the team."

    Irish winner

    Fuelling his desire to compete in a fourth-successive Ryder Cup, McGinley, who sank the winning putt for the Europeans at the Belfry in 2002, recalled the feeling of lifting the trophy at the K Club in his homeland Ireland in 2006.

    "It was brilliant. Obviously a wonderful experience, and great to be playing in front of your home crowd," he said.

    McGinley will play in his 11th successive Qatar
    Masters Tournament [Al Jazeera]
    "I don't think we're going to see the Ryder Cup back in Ireland probably in my lifetime again, so it was great to be part of the biggest sporting event we've ever had in Ireland."

    The Dubliner has put pressure on himself to make it into the Europe team after withdrawing from the vice-captain role under 2008 captain Nick Faldo.

    "I feel that I desperately want to play myself, and it's best if I focus my energy on trying to make the team as opposed to trying to be a vice-captain and play as well," McGinley explained.

    McGinley's rescinding of the vice-captaincy came after Faldo chose not to use the Irishman as a wild-card for the Great Britain and Ireland team against continental Europe in the Seve Trophy last September, but reports of a rift between golfer and captain have been downplayed.

    "I think he'll be an excellent captain," McGinley said of Faldo.

    "He'll be very thorough and very well prepared.

    "He's got his own ideas and his own views on it, and a lot of experience obviously with eleven Ryder Cups."

    McGinley will begin his drive to make the Ryder Cup team with his first appearance in 2008 to be at the Abu Dhabi Championship from January 17 to 20, followed by the Qatar Masters in Doha from January 24 to 27.

    The 'Gulf Swing' concludes with the Dubai Desert Classic one week later.

    "It's a three-week stretch in the Gulf, and a great way to start the season," McGinley said.

    "The conditions are always wonderful, the weather is always good, the golf courses are excellent and a lot of the guys really look forward to this part of the season."

    Indeed, three hot weeks in the Gulf may be exactly what Paul McGinley needs.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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