Wales Open a chance for rookies to shine, says Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley
EUROPEAN captain Paul McGinley says the ISPS Handa Wales Open is the perfect opportunity for a rookie to stake an early claim for a Ryder Cup spot.
McGinley gets the race for qualification for the 2014 Ryder Cup up and running this morning at the Celtic Manor.
The Wales Open is the start of the points race for a spot at Gleneagles next year and the veteran Irishman, who takes over as European captain from Jose Maria Olazabal, will hit the first shot.
McGinley tees off at 7.25am alongside England’s John Parry and Norwegian Espen Kofstad and he’s keen to stress that the lack of big names in the field gives some of the sport’s future stars a chance to shine.
“I’m hitting the first shot off and hopefully I’ll be hitting the last shot too,” said the 46-year-old, who was a vice captain to Colin Montgomerie at the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor.
“It’s great to be able to do that. I think it’s the first time a captain has done it. I’m playing with the winner of Tour School and the winner of the Challenge Tour, and I think it’s a great European story.”
Of the victorious European team at Medinah last year only Italy’s Francisco Molinari is taking part in Newport this week but McGinley understands why stars like Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood are not at the Celtic Manor.
“The start of the points race is an important milestone,” he said.
“I think it’s always a disappointment when there’s not more of the top players playing but there are understandable reasons.
“Most of the top players are playing on the PGA Tour now and they’re in the middle of their FedEx Series.
“Having said that, it won’t make any difference to the scoring and the standard. The quality of the golf on the European Tour now is phenomenal.
“There’s a lot of young players on the European Tour now who are ready to step up to Ryder Cup standard. This is a great opportunity for them.
“I’m not afraid of having rookies in the team and if those guys step up to the plate and play really well I’ll be delighted to welcome them to the team.
“We have experienced players playing in America but we have people like Francisco playing here this week and all I’m concerned about is having the 12 strongest players to represent Europe this time next year.
“I have absolutely no reservations about picking rookies. I just want the best players, whether they’re playing here or in America.”
He added: “The odds are if you’re a bookie, and they don’t often get things wrong, you’d heavily back the 12 players who made Medinah because they’ve all continued to have success.
“If it was those 12 players I’d be delighted but they all have to earn their place. Everybody starts from zero and I think, if you look back at the history of Ryder Cups, it’s very rare that you don’t have a rookie in the team.
“So if a rookie does well enough to qualify for the team or to be one of the picks then I’d be delighted and they’d be welcomed to the team.”
McGinley, Molinari and fellow big names such as 2011 Open winner Darren Clarke will be looking to dethrone defending champion Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand on Sunday afternoon.
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