"Wildcard picks must have been agonising" – Bernard GallacherSeptember, 2014
Former captain delighted to see his nephew make the team but admits it was tough having to leave out Luke Donald
Former European Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher insists it mush have been agonising for Paul McGinley to choose between Lee Westwood and Luke Donald for when making his wildcard picks.
The eight-time player and three-time captain was obviously delighted to see his nephew Stephen make the side for Gleneagles and believes he and Ian Poulter were the two obvious choices.
However, the decision to pick Westwood ahead of Donald wasn’t a easy one and Gallacher believes Westwood’s consistency off the tee was a crucial factor.
Speaking exclusively to NCG, the Golf Care ambassador said: “I’m not surprised at all about Ian Poulter, he was almost an automatic choice because of the way he raises his game at the Ryder Cup.
“You wouldn’t have wanted to go into battle against the USA without him in the team.
“With Stephen as the second pick, the third pick was more difficult and came down to a personal choice.
I think Westwood’s length off the tee and his driving of the ball was a key factor" “It’s a very long course and Lee Westwood has the game to suit that. Luke Donald has been struggling a bit with swing changes.
“But it must have been a very agonising decision for Paul.
“I think Westwood’s length off the tee and his driving of the ball was a key factor.
“Paul challenged him to show some form at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and he finished with a 63 he followed that up with an opening 65 in the first round of the US PGA.
“Those two performances just about did it for him and the fact that Paul thinks he is a bit better and a bit straighter off the tee than Luke Donald. It’s going to be a long, soft course.”
Gallacher insists it was the right decision to hand his nephew a debut at Gleneagles – particually with it being on a course he has performed well on in the past.
“Obviously I’m really pleased for Stephen with him coming from the same golf club as me,” Gallacher added.
“He was really anxious to make the team. We could see that. But he has been playing well all year and all throughout the Ryder Cup qualification process.
“And the course at Gleneagles is one that he enjoys playing, he’s had seven top 10s there.
“Also he’s Scottish which will help with the crowd, I thought it was important to have a Scot on the team.
“We know how good he is, he has a good foursomes record playing internationally at amateur level.
“We would all liked him to have qualified automatically but people could see he was under more pressure (at the Italian Open) than anyone else trying to finish first or second.
“David Howell came through with a fantastic final round and Hennie Otto had a great week.
“If if wasn’t for the exceptional performances of those two then he would have qualified automatically.”
While waiting for Tom Watson to announce his three wildcard picks, Gallacher believes Europe has the strongest team on paper but has warned against complacency.
“Europe are favourites with Rory McIlroy winning the last two majors, Martin Kaymer winning the US Open, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose have also been up there this year, Sergio Garcia has had a great season.
“We are at home on a course that the players know which is a very important factor.
“But that doesn’t mean we are going to win. We must not be complacent. We’ve still got to go out there and do it.
“Anything can happen, we saw that last time at Medinah where Europe were four down going into the singles.
“It should be very exciting.”