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‘We’d consumed 72 bottles of wine’: Paul McGinley reveals 2004 European team’s legendary drinking

September 05, 2023
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TIMOTHY A. CLARY

With the Ryder Cup selections now finalized, it’s time for the chosen pros to get their games ready for Marco Simone. Playing among electric crowds, putting in tense circumstances and building camaraderie are just a few things that the best of the best will have to prep for. However, if Paul McGinley had his way, these golfers should also be drinking a good deal of wine to get ready for an alcohol-infused Ryder Cup.

The 2014 Ryder Cup captain and 2004 Ryder Cup pro bemoaned the current players' inability to have fun and stated that his 2004 squad would drink a lot more than the team 10 years later.

“Is golf as fun as it was 15 years ago? I think they’re making three times the money we were making,” McGinley told Golf Channel. “But the camaraderie we had in the game back then—and maybe it’s because we weren’t playing for as much money as they are now and we weren’t flying around everywhere in our private jets and there wasn’t 50 Netjets sitting at the airport to take players home every night.”

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David Cannon

"I was amazed when I was [Ryder Cup] captain in 2014, nobody drank. I mean, nobody,” McGinley added. “I wasn't like, 'It's a Ryder Cup I'm not going to drink.' It was a case of, 'No, I'm not drinking, I don't drink when I play. It's not even a question.”

It’s not as if these drinks got in the way as the 2004 European team blew out the Americans with a score of 18½ to 9½. It was the largest margin of defeat for the U.S. since the event began in 1927, so that’s pretty good. Remembering the good ol’ days, McGinley went on to dissect just how much wine the team went through. Spoiler alert: It’s a lot.

“Back in our day, there was quite a bit of alcohol consumed, it’s fair to say, even during Ryder Cups,” McGinley said. “When we won by a record margin in Oakland Hills under Bernhard Langer, I remember one of the backroom staff coming out and telling us—on the Saturday night, so this is before the Sunday—that we had drank 72 bottles of wine already, and that they had to go and re-up the order. This is when matches were still on.

"It's not like we were getting drunk every night — far from it. But everyone would have had one, two, maybe three glasses of wine at night and it was normal. And nine, 10 out of the 12 players would do that. Obviously, it’s a changed atmosphere now on the course. When there’s alcohol involved, as you well know, there’s always a bit more crack involved.”

Could this be the key to a massive upset for the European squad? If McGinley had a say in it, the captain’s picks may have been selected by how much wine each pro could put down. Shane Lowry wouldn’t just have been a captain’s pick, he would’ve somehow been promoted to captain.