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How Christy O'Connor Junior Became Paul McGinley's Ryder Cup 'Guardian Angel'

How Christy O'Connor Junior Became Paul McGinley's Ryder Cup 'Guardian Angel'
By Donny Mahoney
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The Irish sports world mourns the passing of Christy O'Connor Junior today.

O'Connor's heroics at the Belfry in 1989 will never be forgotten but it should also be remembered that O'Connor Jr played a small but important role in another famous Irish Ryder Cup moment at the Belfry: Paul McGinley's winning put in 2002.

That year, Europe and the US were tied on 8 points heading into the last day. For the final day's singles, captain Sam Torrance sent Ryder Cup rookie Paul McGinley out to play Jim Furyk fourth-last. It was probably the most pressure-filled round that McGinley had ever played, and as it happened, McGinley would hole a 10-foot putt on 18 to halve the match and win the tournament for Europe. It was the beginning of McGinley's storied relationship with the tournament.



Christy O'Connor followed every stroke of the round on foot. After Europe won the Ryder Cup that September, Irish golf journalist Brian Keogh caught up with a jubilant O'Connor, who revealed he had decided to shadow McGinley throughout the round, as a sort of cornerman.

“I followed Paul the whole way around and I think he appreciated it. I was there on every tee and just kept cheering him on.

“I gave him a massive lift. But his golf was good. I knew it was good I think it was just the Ryder Cup hanging over his head that was affecting him this season. It was fantastic what he did - the way he played the last hole.”

“I had a feeling that Paul’s match could be the one and that’s how it turned out,” he said. “It was absolutely unbelievable and one of the greatest memories I’ll ever have. It was just fantastic.

“It compares with my own day back in ‘89. Nobody expected the guys to pull it off yesterday, going out even. I just think Sam made a fantastic job of the draw.

Keogh's story references the strong role that the Irish support in the gallery played in McGinley's round. McGinley himself admitted that someone even shouted to him 'Remember Armagh', a reference to the two-point comeback that Armagh made over Kerry in the 2002 All-Ireland a few weeks previous.


O'Connor also spoke of the terrible pressure involved in playing the Ryder Cup, and how his shot in 1989 inspired the 2002 team.

“All you see is people around the green. You know the world is on your shoulders to pull off that one shot. Paul said that his ball finished up two yards from mine. He was right next to where mine was in 1989, next to the plaque, and he said it made it feel pretty good. So that makes me feel good too.

“He said that he wanted to hit a shot like mine - something similar - and he hit a pretty good shot which just bounced off the green and on. He hit what I thought was a decent pitch which ran on and left himself with a sizeable putt but thankfully he holed it. It was just absolutely tremendous. I’ve never heard crowds screaming like it in my life.”


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