McGinley looking for finishers as Ryder Cup wildcard choices loom

McGinley looking for finishers as Ryder Cup wildcard choices loom

Five into three doesn't go. Paul McGinley has choices to make. Picture: Fran Caffrey/

Paul McGinley wants to see Stephen Gallacher, or any other player on the periphery of his team, step up to the mark and show they really want to be at Gleneagles by putting in a huge performance this week.

While he will wait until after Luke Donald and Ian Poulter have competed in the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston before discussing his potential picks with his vice-captains Des Smyth and Sam Torrance on Monday, his choices will be defined to a large extent by Stephen Gallacher's performance in the Italian Open at Circolo Golf Torino - La Mandria.

The Scot must finish in the Top-2 to qualify automatically and push Graeme McDowell out of the final automatic berth via the World Points List. And McGinley admits that's exactly what he's looking for from his potential team members — ambition and guts under pressure.

"That's exactly what I'm looking for this week — a guy who sees the finishing line and bursts through it," McGinley said. "A guy who is drawn to the finishing line, who is excited about the finishing line, a guy who is excited about the pressure and excited about the situation they are in.

"That's what I'm looking for from the guys this week. To be motivated and excited about the finishing line. It's the last chance to push yourself over the line, particularly in Stevie's case. It's an exciting time for him. He knows that destiny is in his hands with Graeme not playing this week. He knows that a 1 or 2 finishing position is going to get him on the team.

"It's a pressurised situation. There is a lot of pressure on him and a lot of spotlight on him. But it is also a very exciting thing too."

With other Europeans such as two-time Ryder Cup player Francesco Molinari and Dutchman Joost Luiten also in the field, there's a chance one of them could produce an outstanding performance and give McGinley food for thought.

The general consensus on tour is that Poulter is considered a certainty to get a wildcard and with Donald and Westwood also needing a pick, McGinley is likely to be faced with having to choose three from Donald, Gallacher, Poulter and Westwood or McDowell, Donald, Poulter and Westwood.

“It’s a big event and a big week for so many people," McGinley said. "It’s an exciting week.

“I have been in this situation before, going into the last calendar event in 2004, where I was I think just outside the team. I think I may have been 11th place with Frederik Jacobson just ahead of me.

“We had a race to the finish line right until the last day. We were drawn together on the last day and I think I finished in the top five of the tournament and edged just ahead of Freddie. I then went on to play what I considered to be my best Ryder Cup in 2004.

“I can understand the pressure the guys are under. I can relate to it. There is no doubt that the performance I had in Munich in 2004 that pushed myself over the line was a huge psychological boost for me.

“It was one of the reasons why I believed I played so well in Detroit. There is an opportunity for the guys that are here this week to do something similar.

“To play well in the last counting event, with the spotlight on you, will be huge for them. If not making the team, then its certainly useful in terms of making an impression.”

Three time European Tour winner Gallacher can do what Jamie Donaldson did at the D+D REAL Czech Masters last week and play his way into the team by winning — or finishing runner up at worst.

It's a clear cut situation and McGinley wants to see Gallacher thriving under the pressure and reading between the lines, you got the impression that he may still get a wildcard if he fails to achieve the Top-2 finish he needs 

He said: “I know exactly how Stevie is feeling. And I know that should be come through this week with a very strong performance, that will set him up wonderfully well for Gleneagles.

"I was in a situation where I had to go head-to-head so I know how he is feeling. I know how he has been feeling the last few weeks.

“He is very much in it and I wish him the very best of luck. I know what it is like to play a Ryder Cup in your home country, I had that privilege in 2006. I want to see guys bursting over the line.

“I want to see that line been something you want to gravitate towards, something that you long for and something that you play towards.

“Something that is exciting and your golf as a result raises to another level and drags you towards that line. Just like Jamie Donaldson did last week. That’s what he did. It was an exciting time for him.”

McGinley knows that the pressure Gallacher and others face this week is only a fraction of what they can expect to face at Gleneagles. In others words, performing is the test.

"If they can perform at that level with that expectancy, it's a big tick in their favour."

Asked by European Tour radio's Nicky Dye how many players still had a chance to end up in the wild card conversation on Monday evening, McGinley said: "It's hard to say because I don't really want to discount anybody. But we all know. 

"Francesco has got a big part to play too. He's been a great Ryder Cup player, as well know, and I am very closely looking at him too and he's got an advantage playing on his home course this week.

"He's been a great Ryder Cup player, he's played very consistently as well too and obviously Stevie is big there too and obviously Luke is playing in America this week too and Poulter is playing in America. 

"I'm interested to see how those guys play. Outside of that I would't discount anybody. If somebody comes out of the blue and wins in a very impressive fashion and other things don't evolve the way we expect them to evolve then they will be considered too."

Asked about Marc Warren, McGinley said he was "coming a bit late" compared to Gallacher and was "a long shot."

As for Gallacher, he says he's looking forward to the challenge.

“There are a lot of things on my mind this week," Gallacher said. "The most difficult thing for me this week is trying to focus just on the golf. If I play well and finish in the top two then I am a Ryder Cup player and that is something that I have dreamed about my whole life.

“It’s quite funny that everyone’s asking if am nervous about the week ahead but the best place for me to be at the moment is on the golf course. That is where I can think about my next shot and my processes and block the other stuff out. It is when you come off the course that you just cannot escape it.

“Everyone wants to ask about The Ryder Cup, or talk to you about it or just wish you all the best which is all great but, as I said, it makes it very difficult to get it out of your mind which is what a part of you wants to do. But the whole thing is really exciting for me – that is the main feeling I have. To be a Scotsman who lives 35 miles from Gleneagles trying to get into the team brings a lot of hope and expectation and pressure, but most of all it is an exciting week for me.”

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