GULLANE, Scotland (Reuters) - Europe’s 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley does not fancy Jordan Spieth’s chances of being the first golfer since American Ben Hogan in 1953 to land the first three majors of the season.
The 48-year-old Irishman believes St Andrews, venue of next week’s British Open, will favor the long drivers rather than someone like Spieth whose game is built around a silky putting stroke.
“The odds are against Jordan next week,” McGinley told Reuters in an interview at the Scottish Open. “I wouldn’t be backing him.
“If the course plays to it’s prevailing wind, which is in off the left on the holes on the way out, it’s very advantageous to hit the ball a long way.
“Holes like the par-five fifth, going into that green with a five or six-iron compared to a three-wood is a massive advantage to the big hitters, particularly when the pin is at the front,” said McGinley.
“The par-four ninth is also drivable to the big-hitters, 10 is drivable, 12 is drivable, 14 gets wider the further you hit it, and 18 is drivable too. Jordan not being one of the big hitters means it’s going to put even more focus on his putting.”
McGinley, who led Europe to Ryder Cup victory in Scotland in September, said the Old Course had changed a lot down the years.
“I think it’s going to be a leaderboard dominated by big hitters, I feel that very strongly,” he said.
“Since Nick Faldo won there in 1990 they’ve put in five, six or seven new teeboxes that have really changed the dynamic of the course.”
McGinley refuses to discount the claims of Spieth completely but he reckons the 21-year-old’s fellow American Dustin Johnson and South African Louis Oosthuizen are more likely challengers for the coveted Claret Jug.
“Louis won the Open at St Andrews in 2010, he hits the ball a long way,” said the Dubliner.
“He is the kind of player who is well capable of winning and the kind of player I feel will come out on top.
“Jordan is probably the best putter in the world but I’m looking at the big hitters next week. Maybe it’s going to be Dustin’s time, the course is perfectly suited to his game.”
McGinley said it was a real shame Rory McIlroy’s ankle injury had deprived the golfing world of an Open shootout between him and fellow young gun Spieth.
“It’s disappointing for the game because sport, no matter whether its boxing, tennis or soccer, thrives on rivalries,” added the four-times European Tour winner.
“With Rory having won two majors last year and Jordan winning the first two this season, it set it up really nicely for a rivalry between the number one and number two in the world at the home of golf at St Andrews.
“Having said that golf isn’t like a sport like tennis in so far as generally three of the four top players in the world are going to be in the semi-finals of Wimbledon,” said McGinley.
“That’s not the case in our sport because the guys in 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th, 80th, 90th position in the rankings can compete and all have the potential to win next week. That’s something that’s unique about golf.”
McIlroy sustained his injury playing soccer with his friends last weekend and McGinley felt it would be harsh to criticize the 26-year-old Northern Irishman for that.
“In hindsight Rory would wish he hadn’t played that game of soccer but it could have happened to him walking down the street,” he said.
“It wasn’t a dirty tackle, the game wasn’t played at a high tempo, he just happened to be running and went over on his ankle.
“One of the things that makes Rory special is he’s not a Nick Faldo-kind of personality, obsessive with the game, an incredibly hard practicer, focused 24/7, that’s not his dynamic, that’s not what makes him tick as a golfer,” said McGinley.
“He’s much more creative, much more inspirational and that’s what makes him so exciting as a player. What he does off the course gives him that energy, that freshness, to play that way.”
McGinley was speaking after taking over from Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter as “captain” of the online Ballantine’s Golf Club.
Editing by Ken Ferris