Ryder Cup legend Paul McGinley believes America’s grand blueprint to regain parity in golf’s greatest team competition has put them under ‘massive pressure’ ahead of next year’s clash at Hazeltine.
And the victorious Team Europe skipper from Gleneagles 2014 believes the man who has inherited the most coveted captaincy in the game, Darren Clarke, can capitalise on the fact that many USA fans now expect a ‘walkover’ on home soil.
On the back of a player-powered revolution across the Atlantic, everything from selection of the Team USA captaincy to the qualification process has been overhauled.
But McGinley, who led Europe to their sixth triumph in seven contests, says removing all the past excuses will bring its own expectations for Davis Love and his players.
‘I think the Americans are under massive pressure,’ said the Irishman. ‘There’s a lot of expectation because they’ve made a lot of decisions they think are going to guarantee their success.
‘You travel around America and everyone there thinks this will be a walkover for them. But playing with expectation on your shoulders is a difficult position to be in – because you’ve nowhere to go from there.
‘I remember, back in 1992 when I was a rookie, having dinner with Jack Nicklaus and his son, Gary, who I knew. One of the things I wanted to know was who was his toughest competitor and, as the night goes on, the more the red wine was loosening his tongue, so I was learning so much.
‘So I asked him the big question, he thought about it for five minutes, eventually looked at Gary and said: “I haven’t even admitted this to your mother, but my toughest competitor was Lee Trevino.
“And I’ll tell you why. Every Tuesday at a Major championship, Lee Trevino would walk into the press tent and all he’d do during his whole press conference was tell everybody how great a player Jack Nicklaus is. How I could hit a two iron higher than Lee could hit a sand wedge.
“How even if I played my B game then he had no chance. He’d say: ‘I’ve gotta hope he plays a B-minus and I’m on an A-plus - then I might have a chance.’”
‘Then Nicklaus said: “I’ve never admitted this to anybody but, every time I went head-to-head, he was the only guy who had a winning ratio against me. Because he’d cornered me. I had nowhere to go”.
‘I’ve always remembered that and now I look at the Americans and they are expected to win. That’s a very uncomfortable position to be in.
‘It’s certainly a dynamic we can take advantage of.’