What will be your overall m.o. as captain of the European Ryder Cup team?
Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it? I’ve played in six matches, been a vice captain, so I’ve seen a number of captains over the years. Hopefully, I’ll be a mix of all the good and try to avoid some of the bad. Just got to be aware that you’ve got to be a captain to all of the players—one style doesn’t fit everybody, so you have to understand where your own weaknesses are and be able to relate to each player on the team.
You’re known as an analytical sort of guy. How might that come to bear in your captaincy?
I will use analytics both in selecting my wild card picks and in setting the lineups. But I’m also very aware of other things—like momentum and gut feeling. To that end, within my five vice captains I’ll have a mix of analytical and gut-feeling guys.
Do you feel Whistling Straits, as a links-type course, might put the European team at less of a visitors’ disadvantage than if the matches were played on a traditional U.S. golf course?
Whistling Straits is not your typical U.S. golf course—like Valhalla, Medinah or Hazeltine, where the U.S. team would have an edge. The weather will also be a factor—when I was there in October we had every weather condition you could think of.
What do you think makes a good match-play course and how would you rate Whistling Straits in that regard? Is risk-reward the main key?
A good match-play course is one with a lot of risk-reward, a lot of excitement on it—and I do think Whistling Straits is that course. You will see some good golf, birdies being made, and you will also see a little bit of mayhem.
What golf goals do you have, beyond the Ryder Cup? Is the Champions Tour a big thing in your future?
I feel I can still win on the regular tours, although I don’t feel I can afford too many mistakes in my game in any week and win—that obviously brings its own pressure. When you don’t feel like you can afford to miss a putt or hit a bad shot, you tend to hit more of them. That Champions Tour is coming up fast. No cuts, that could be quite attractive. If I’m not competitive or coming close to winning, I’ll definitely be delighted to move on to what is clearly a smaller pond to compete in.
What is your favorite course?
I’ve got a few favorites in Ireland—Royal Portrush, Portmarnock, Ballybunion as the links courses. Adare Manor, The K Club as the parkland courses. In the states, I think Riviera is a great venue for a tournament. Obviously, Augusta if you want to pick one, that would be top of the pile. There’s also some great old courses in Europe—Royal Zoute in Belgium, Chantilly and Fontaine-bleau in France.
What sticks out in your memory from your three-majors run in 2007–08?
Beating Sergio in a four-hole playoff at Carnoustie was obviously very exciting. I think my second win at Royal Birkdale was very satisfying—the way you dream of winning a major as a kid. I played great golf. I had the wrong side of the draw, so had adversity. I was injured that week. I was in the last group on Sunday, and I got to walk down the last with a four-shot lead and wave at the crowds. I followed that very quickly with the win at the PGA Championship. I was out of sorts physically coming off a win in a major, it was very hard two weeks later. It wasn’t mine: I took it, grabbed it, stole it, however you want to put it. Sometimes when you get one that wasn’t meant to be yours, it can be all the more enjoyable. So three wins, three very different experiences—an exciting one, a satisfying one, and one that I won ugly.