Who will be the fall guy - Donald or McGinley?

Paul McGinley and Luke Donald in Shanghai last year. Picture: Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ie

Luke Donald can have few complaints if he's driving a buggy rather than a Titleist in the Ryder Cup later this month. But while most observers believe it will be Lee Westwood and Stephen Gallacher who get the nod to joined Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter at Gleneagles, it may well prove to be a very painful decision for Paul McGinley and it could turn out to be the key to his entire captaincy.

The Dubliner must surely have expected the former world No 1 to make the team on merit but with Stephen Gallacher forcing his hand, he is probably relieved that he opted to stick with three captain's picks.

Even though he matched Ian Poulter with a four under 67 in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship and like his compatriot kissed the FedEx Cup playoffs goodbye for another year, Donald's admission that he cannot be too upset if McGinley overlooks him will take some of the heat off the Dubliner.

After all, McGinley has every excuse to pick Gallacher and few arguments for leaving him out and when it comes to Poulter, the most inspirational European Ryder Cup player since Seve, it appears even more clear cut.

Most observer believe it will be Westwood who gets (or already got) the good news call and while it may cause McGinley more than a little pain to give a friend such unpalatable news, Donald knows it will be nothing personal.

"If you'd asked me a few weeks ago, I feel like I probably was going to be (picked)," Donald said in Boston last night. "Now I'm not so sure."

Even when grasping for something positive to say, Donald's remarks were lacking in conviction:

"Hopefully (McGinley) looks a little past form," Donald said. "It's not a nice feeling to wait it out.

"If you don't make it automatically you only have yourself to blame. I wouldn't hold it against Lee and wouldn't hold it against Captain McGinley (if I didn't get picked). Fortunately, two times [the wildcard] it has gone my way. Hopefully it'll continue that way."

McGInley will have had potential pairings in his head all year. Who knows what plans he may have had for Donald had the former world No 1 played better this summer. 

A great partner for Sergio Garcia, it would not be beyond McGinley to pair Donald with the likes of Henrik Stenson. Equally, McGinley may well be thinking of freshening things up for Justin Rose, who has played five times with Poulter, by pairing him with someone like Westwood.

Knowing McGinley, he will have had at least one backup plan in place and while the course may be more suited to Westwood that Donald, as Paul Lawrie suggested, great players can play well anywhere.

On the other hand, McGinley is a huge admirer of Westwood's character and with Sam Torrance also a friend and a fan of the Worksop man, Des Smyth's views on the Donald-Westwood debate may well have had a serious effect on the final decision.

Ideally, McGinley would love to have both Westwood and Donald, but could he take both and then risk losing the warmth of the Scottish public by ignoring Gallacher or incurring the wrath of the UK media by dropping Poulter? 

"My selections won't be a surprise," McGinley said at the Italian Open. "It won't be coming out of left field. I will be going by logic."

What better man to ask for a logical assessment than Martin Kaymer, who rarely opens his mouth without thinking. 

"I think at the end of the day you have to ask yourself who will get the point in the singles," Kaymer said in Boston last night. "I think that's very important.

"I think Poulter, he should be in for sure. He has a great record. If you think those four people now with Westwood, his record is good. He played many times. He's a solid person, a leader in the team. Luke Donald, one of the best short game players out here.

"I know that or I heard that he's struggling a little bit with his long game, but he will make everything up with his short game. But to be honest who deserves it more, I think is Stephen Gallacher should get the chance."

Was that a vote for Donald?

Our gut feeling tells us that it will be Gallacher, Westwood and Poulter who get the nod. But knowing McGinley's penchant for checking out all the angles and the fact that the Ryder Cup will almost certainly come down to great putting in the singles, Donald may yet have a sniff.

His final round 67, which featured four birdies in the last seven hole, was his lowest score anywhere since he closed with a 66 in the Scottish Open in July.  Too little too late? Probably. But still...

One man who is not struggling for form is Rory McIlroy and even though he had an off day in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, carding four bogeys and five birdies in a one under 70, he still finished tied for fifth

Victory went to his final round playing partner Chris Kirk, who was part of the winning US Walker Cup team that overcame a McIlroy-led GB&I at Royal County Down in 2007.

McGinley's counterpart Tom Watson has just as tough a task to pick three wildcards. Keegan Bradley and Hunter Mahan appear to be the most likely to get the nod but could the third one go to Kirk or another of those Royal County Down heroes? Or will Watson go down the list and pick from the heart? 

We'll know the answers to those questions later today but it will be another month before we know which of the two skippers got the call right.