European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley announced his three wildcard picks on Tuesday afternoon at Wentworth, home of the European Tour’s headquarters. McGinley had been rather open about his choices, saying on Sunday he had narrowed it down to five names: Luke Donald, Stephen Gallacher, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari and Lee Westwood.
Turns out McGinley went with form and experience in selecting Gallacher, the local hero who missed out qualifying automatically by a stroke, Ian Poulter, the Ryder Cup wizard, and Lee Westwood, the experienced veteran with a strong record.
The trio will join Thomas Björn, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson on The PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles from September 26-28, as Europe bid to retain the trophy won in such dramatic fashion in Medinah two years ago.
Poulter and Westwood, of course, were members of that Medinah team, while Gallacher will be making his Ryder Cup debut in his home country.
For Westwood, the appearance will see him make another significant mark in the history of the biennial match against the United States.
Having played in every Ryder Cup since making his debut at Valderrama in 1997, the 2014 contest in Scotland will be the 41 year old Englishman’s ninth consecutive appearance, taking him to joint fourth in the all-time European appearance list behind Sir Nick Faldo (11), Bernhard Langer and Christy O’Connor (both ten) and alongside Dai Rees.
Westwood, who has an overall record of 18 wins and six halves from his 37 matches spanning 17 years, said: “I’m obviously delighted. The Ryder Cup has always been a massive thing for me and I was delighted to get the call from Paul. It was a long day yesterday but when Paul rang with the good news I was relieved.
“I’ve played a lot better in the last month and a half and I’ve been showing some form and giving Paul a reason to pick me. I’m delighted and honoured to be representing Europe again.”
Joining Westwood is his countryman Poulter, the man credited with lighting the blue touch paper on Europe’s remarkable comeback in Chicago in 2012, when he claimed the final point of Saturday afternoon’s fourball session thanks to five closing birdies.
The 38 year old Englishman’s love and passion for the biennial contest is as legendary as his point-scoring prowess in the blue and gold of Europe, having won 12 of his 15 matches in his outings in 2004, 2008, 2010 and 2012, a statistic which includes a point in the singles on every occasion.
Poulter said: “I’m absolutely thrilled. To get the call was amazing. I can’t wait for Gleneagles. It’s a fantastic feeling and I’m proud to be a pick. The Ryder Cup means a lot to me and I can’t wait. It’s always difficult to make a Ryder Cup team and this one was no different. Paul had a very difficult decision with some fantastic players to pick from.”
Completing the wild card line-up is Gallacher, who will thrill the home crowds at Gleneagles when he tees up for his Ryder Cup debut at the age of 39. The Scot battled valiantly to try to claim one of the nine automatic places on offer but came up one place shy in last week’s Open D’Italia, leaving him a mere 1.61 points short on the World Points List.
Gallacher said: “It’s massive for me and my family. It’s been a goal all my career to play in The Ryder Cup and I was delighted to get the call from Paul. It was a long day yesterday.
“On Sunday I had mixed emotions. I was delighted with the way I played but disappointed not to have made the team automatically. I knew there were other great players in with a shout of getting a pick, so I really didn’t know what was going to happen. I’m just glad it all turned out okay in the end.”
Commenting on his decision, Paul McGinley said: “I am delighted to name Stephen, Ian and Lee as my wild card selections which completes the 2014 European Ryder Cup team, a team which everyone in Europe should be proud of.
“Stephen’s performance in trying to make the team automatically was hugely impressive and one for which he should be given an enormous amount of credit. To play that consistently over the past few weeks when the pressure and expectation were on his shoulders – not just from himself but from everyone in Scotland – made his inclusion a relatively easy decision for me.
“In terms of Ian, I’m not sure what more there is to say about him in terms of The Ryder Cup, aside from the fact I couldn’t envisage the team without him in it. Everybody knows what he did at Medinah but his overall Ryder Cup record in his four appearances to date is hugely impressive and I know he’ll be looking to add to that tally in Scotland.
“Finally, in terms of Lee, I have said many times that he has been the pillar of the recent success that Europe has enjoyed in The Ryder Cup and I know he will show that again, in this, his ninth consecutive appearance. He is a class act and he has shown glimpses of the form we all know he is capable of in the recent big events in the United States.”