Gallacher puts a gun to McGinley's head

Stephen Gallacher. Picture

First the big news — Graeme McDowell and his wife Kristin have named their first child Vale Esme. Discovering the names of Paul McGinley's three wildcard picks will have to wait until Tuesday afternoon but if McDowell's comments on Stephen Gallacher's sprint for the line carry any weight, the Scot will be one of them.

His bid to qualify automatically came down to the last hole of the Open d'Italia in Turin, where he needed a birdie for a 64 to grab the share of second place with 63-shooter David Howell to make it on merit and leave McDowell needing a pick.

He did well to make par in the end but after shoot a 65 to finish third behind Hennie Otto just a week after finsing seventh in the Czech Republic, McGinley will be hard pressed to find reasons to leave him out.

As Howell said after the stunning 63 that denied Gallacher an automatic place: "It would be a travesty if Paul does not select him."

Those weren't the words of man who looks likely to be a vice-captain and it now appears that Howell will be in the Sky Sports studio as a pundit rather than the backroom team where the names of Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Pádraig Harrington have gained traction as potential assistants alongside Des Smyth and Sam Torrance.

His performance this week will very strongly be in his favour when it comes to making the picks but there is a lot of emotion around here at the moment, let’s put a little bit of cold water on it.
— Paul McGinley on Stephen Gallacher's chances of a wildcard

McGinley is now faced with the prospect of choosing three from Gallacher, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari and Lee Westwood (to name but five).

All the indications are that he will pick Poulter and that Westwood is also high on his list, which would leave Gallacher as the hot favourite for the final spot ahead of the struggling Donald, who shot a three over 74 to barely squeeze through the 54-hole cut in the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston where Poulter is 37th and 10 shots off the lead after a level par 71 on Sunday

Westwood didn't even qualify for the second FedEx Cup event but McGinley is a big admirer of the English veteran, who has shown signs that his game is coming around in the nick of time.

On the other hand, Donald is a foursomes specialist and the perfect partner for Sergio Garcia and while the decision should not be a political one — and we believe it won't be —  he was also hugely influenced by the now European captain after a difficult start in Chicago two years ago. Donald did not forget and he repaid the Dubliner by publicly backing him for the captaincy two years ago.

McGinley has gone on record as saying that there is no place for sentimentality when it comes to the picks and he made that clear as the excitement over Gallacher's performance reverberated around Turin.

Asked about what he saw on Sunday, McGinley tried to dampened down the wave of emotion for the Scot and insisted that he hadn't made up his mind yet.

If Gallacher was Dutch or Italian he might get away with leaving him out but with Scotland without a player on the team, it would be a brave move to overlook a player who lives just 35 minutes from Gleneagles and come closer than any of the other candidates to making the team automatically.

But having changed his plans 12 months ago and opted to delay his picks by 24 hours precisely to give players like Donald and Poulter as much time as possible to state their case, he was duty bound to play down Gallacher euphoria in Turin on Sunday evening.

“This was a terrific performance by Stephen,” McGinley said on Sky Sports. “The gun was to his head but he performed very strongly. All credit to him. It’s unfortunate he’s come up one shot short of being an automatic in the team.

“His performance this week will very strongly be in his favour when it comes to making the picks but there is a lot of emotion around here at the moment, let’s put a little bit of cold water on it.

“This has been the toughest ever Ryder Cup team to make from a European point of view, in terms of points you need to amass to make the team, so he has been up against it. And for a rank and file guy from the European Tour, who doesn’t play in America and misses out on a lot of the ranking points as a result, to perform as well as he does is all credit to him.

“But there’s a lot of stats to be looked at and in the cold light of day, I’ll sit down with the vice-captains and we’ll assess everything and come up with three picks that are going to add to what is already an incredibly strong nine players.”

Gallacher was one of 11 players to finish in the top 12 on both the European and the World Points lists. Of the other 10, only Poulter has failed to make the side automatically with Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson coming from the European Points and Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Thomas Bjorn and McDowell getting in through the World Points List.

Poulter is regarded as a certainty to get the nod from McGInley which means that Gallacher finds himself in a battle with Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari for just two places.

McGinley has done all the statistical analysis and knows what each man can offer. And much will depend on the advice he gets from his senior vice-captains Des Smyth and Sam Torrance over the next 24 hours, not to mention the vice-captains he has yet to name.

If I was captain Paul McGinley, I’d be thinking long and hard about putting him on the team. I think he would bring a lot to the dynamic of the side.
— Graeme McDowell on Stephen Gallacher

New Dad McDowell is certainly in favour of Gallacher getting the nod, as he wrote in his BBC Sport blog on Sunday after qualifying for his fourth successive Ryder Cup team.

He's been busy being a father for the past week but admitted he couldn't resist looking at the scoring before tuning into the coverage of the last few holes from Turin.

"I wished Stevie well last week. You certainly would not have begrudged him a place in the team if he'd got the top-two finish he needed to go past me in the standings," McDowell wrote.

"He certainly made a brilliant effort to grab the last automatic qualifying place and only came up a fraction short.

"Given the way he's played throughout this year, and because of the type of player that he is, he would have thoroughly deserved it, especially with him being a Scot and the Ryder Cup being at Gleneagles.

"To me Stephen is somebody who would bring a lot to a Ryder Cup team. He's a big hitter, he's upbeat and a positive personality. As far as rookies go, he wouldn't be a problem.

"If I was captain Paul McGinley, I'd be thinking long and hard about putting him on the team. I think he would bring a lot to the dynamic of the side.

"Paul has three picks, but as we have been joking all year that the team will be made up of nine automatics, two picks and, of course, Ian Poulter, for his past Ryder Cup heroics.

"Seriously, though, when it comes to the selections on Tuesday it's a case of whether Paul wants to go with experience. It is a big ask to pick someone to play his first Ryder Cup, so it will be very interesting."

McGinley will not make his three choices lightly and McDowell revealed that the Dubliner has been the perfect captain so far.

"Paul's been a great captain throughout the summer," he said. "He's been talking to a lot of the guys looking for feedback on how to structure the week, what guys prefer, what works well, what works badly, talking about potential partnerships.

"He's been a very, very open book with the players. He's made a point of speaking with us while not trying to single out guys, so trying to keep a large pool of players in the loop about potentially what could happen.

"His message all summer to all of us has been to stick to your schedule and try and keep your head down and play your game, let the rest of it take care of itself.

"From my point of view, I just can't wait for Gleneagles. It's going to be a very, very special week. I've just had one of those, of course, but in golfing terms it doesn't get much better than playing for your continent and trying to defend that precious trophy."

Gallacher finished just 1.61 world ranking points behind McDowell with Poulter in 11th and Donald 12th on the list and Westwood 16th behind Jiménez, Molinari and Joost Luiten.

“It was a tall order but I am proud of myself the way I have played,” Gallacher said. “Now it comes down to someone else’s opinion and I wanted to qualify myself just to take that away.

“There are four or five guys that are worthy [of a wild card] so it’s just what Paul sees. I was still trying to win the tournament as well and it was strange knowing that second could do it, but I gave it my best shot and I hope Paul likes what I’ve done.”

As for the Open d'Italia, Otto closed with a 68 to win by two from Howell  on 20 under with Gallacher three behind in third. 

Darren Clarke (70) was tied 18th on nine under with Gareth Maybin (68) tied 46th, Damien McGrane (71) tied 65th 

The automatic qualifiers

US Europe

European captain Paul McGinley will name three wildcards on Tuesday at 12:30 BST, with American counterpart Tom Watson doing the same at around midnight BST.


Bubba Watson

Rory McIlroy (NI)


Rickie Fowler

Henrik Stenson (Swe)


Jim Furyk

Victor Dubuisson (Fra)


Jimmy Walker

Jamie Donaldson (Wal)


Phil Mickelson

Sergio Garcia (Spa)


Matt Kuchar

Thomas Bjorn (Den)


Jordan Spieth

Justin Rose (Eng)


Patrick Reed

Martin Kaymer (Ger)


Zach Johnson

Graeme McDowell (NI)