Do you want to know what the outstanding feature of Paul McGinley's game is? There isn't one. It's what makes him the player he is.
McGinley, who finished second to Mark O'Meara in the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday, has stashed away as much cash as he has in his 12 years as a professional -- the equivalent of $5 million -- largely because he is utterly, dependably consistent.
He doesn't drive that far, but he's arrow-straight.
He has a certain authority with an iron in his hands, but he's not what you call inspired like a Jose Maria Olazabal.
He's pretty decent out of sand in that 99.99% of the time he gets out and gives himself a putt.
He's not a bad putter. But he's not a great one, either.
And yet from this he has made himself a big earner. He is, if you like, Mr. Average-Plus.
We don't by any means wish to denigrate McGinley by what might at first sight be a modest critique of his talents. In golf there are the superstars, who play the game on an entirely different planet to the rest, and maybe a level or two below them is a raft of players who throughout their careers prove their sterling qualities by eliminating risk and going about their business in a quiet, workman-like manner.
It's something to be proud of, actually, not defensive about, although McGinley is a modest sort of chap, not one to declaim his talents from up there amid the chimney stacks of life. He is what he is, and if people can't see his talents for what they are, he's not the type to try to convince them into thinking he's something else.
That is not to say, however, that he's a shrinking violet. He is an intense competitor from whom the words spill out like a torrent.
|McGinley finished one stroke shy of victory at the Dubai Desert Classic. (Getty Images)|
He leaves absolutely nothing to chance. Throughout those dozen years that he has trodden the fairways and greens of Europe and beyond, he has wrung the last possible drop from his reservoir of ability.
The point is illustrated by the fact that in the late 1990's he came to the conclusion that he could be stronger and fitter to withstand the rigors of Tour life.
This is what makes him different. Instead of joining the nearest gymnasium, he built an extensive one of his own in his garages at his home and engaged Jonathan Shrewsbury, a former Tour physiotherapist, to advise him.
See? Leave nothing to chance. If you're going to do something, do it properly. Don't take half-measures. Prepare assiduously. Practice hard. No wonder his peers regard him as a wholly admirable performer who, furthermore, never gives less than his best.
He has had to to make his way in the sporting world. He is, perhaps, destined never to dominate the headlines on a global basis, but at 37 he is the sort of player who will still be going strong in 10 years' time, just like Mark O'Meara, who beat him by a stroke in the sands of the desert last weekend.
The single act that will live with him until he is 97, never mind 47, is that he was the man who sank the winning putt at The Belfry 18 months ago or so. The 10-footer that he rolled in on the 18th green against Jim Furyk secured the half-point that sealed a famous victory for Europe.
He paid for his deed of glory by getting a soaking in the lake in front of the green. He didn't mind. He's only a little fellow -- 5ft 7in -- but that afternoon he was a giant among men. Who cares about a drenching when you've just had the best moment of your professional life?
McGinley came slightly late to Ryder Cup golf, but he's determined that he's not going to be a one-hit wonder. He would love nothing more than to make the team again this year.
The weekend's performance in the Middle East gave him a boost. Now he has to keep on doing it, week in, week out. If anybody on the entire roster of the European Tour can do it, it is him.
In Ryder Cup qualification, consistency is sometimes as valuable as the odd shaft of brilliance. It will shock nobody if he gets on the plane with the rest in September. And if it were possible to get to McGinley's deepest innermost thoughts, we'd be surprised if he doesn't think so. too.