Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher came up just short of making the European Ryder Cup on merit. In the final qualifying event for the European side, the Italian Open, the 39-year-old needed a top-two finish to knock out Graeme McDowell for the last automatic berth on the team.
Gallacher started out hot in Turin on Sunday, rolling off six birdies in the first eight holes, but then cooled off, with only one more in the remaining 10. Though he fired a seven-under 65, he ended up merely one shot out of second place, having to settle with third — and more important, now he’ll need to rely on one of Captain Paul McGinley’s three wildcard picks to secure a coveted spot on the team.
“I am proud of the way I played all week, and last week,” said Gallacher. “It was a real pressure situation so I am proud of how I handled myself and at the end of the day, to come down to the last hole of a year-long qualifying campaign was a pretty good effort. There is nothing more I can do.
“It all comes down to someone’s opinion now. At the end of the day I haven’t done enough. We all had the chance of the start of the year and there are nine guys in the team at the moment who have qualified. There are three picks to come and I just hope that I have done enough to get one.”
The nine players who qualified on merit include Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Thomas Bjorn, Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson and McDowell. Now, the attention turns to Captain McGinley, who will announce his three picks at Wentworth on Tuesday at 12:30pm BST. Gallacher joins Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari as the top candidates to round out the European Ryder Cup team.
“I think like everybody else, it was a terrific performance by Stevie today,” said McGinley in Turin. “Really the gun was to his head he performed very strongly and all credit to him but it’s unfortunate that he’s come up just that one shot short of being an automatic on the team.
“His performance this week will be very strongly in his favor when it comes to making the picks but there’s a lot of emotion around here at the moment and let’s just put a little bit of cold water on it at the moment, there’s a lot of stats to be looked at, a lot of players to be looked at, there’s still golf going on in America which is going to be influential in terms of the picks as well too. In the cold light of day tomorrow I’ll sit down with the two vice-captains Des (Smyth) and Sam (Torrance) who are in place and we’ll assess everything and hopefully come up with three picks that are hopefully going to add to what is already an incredibly strong nine players.”
The man who one-upped Gallacher in Italy, David Howell, firmly believes Gallacher should get the nod.
“I really hope Stephen gets a pick because he’d make a fantastic Ryder Cup player,” Howell said. “It was a supreme effort. If the captain needs any nudge that someone is in form and can play well under pressure then Stephen has done it.”
Other players, including world no. 1 Rory McIlroy, have also spoken out in favor of Gallacher to make the team.
McGinley has a tough job ahead of him in the next 24 hours or so. My guess is he’ll go with Gallacher, Donald and Poulter.