Europe are 4-6 favourites to win the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles later this month and the prospects for the side are boosted by the inclusion of a Scot. Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher have been selected by the European captain, Paul McGinley, which means that Luke Donald misses out.
The dilemma facing McGinley was having to chose a proven Ryder Cup performer badly out of form or player at the top of his game who is Scottish and lives near the course. In the end the captain selected the in-form contender in Gallacher rather than Donald. It would have been interesting to have seen the effect on the atmosphere McGinley had chosen three English players ahead of a Scott.
The three players from England have 16 Ryder Cup appearances between them and on paper they would be the picks all the time. A Ryder Cup captain rarely gives a pick to debutants but Gallacher is a special case. He lives 34 miles from Gleneagles and did not flinch under the pressure of trying to make a Ryder Cup in Scotland in the last qualifying event.
A typical Ryder Cup spectator is probably quite conservative and will be voting No for independence. However, there will be enough Yes voters in attendance to make life uncomfortable for McGinley if he had selected the experienced Donald rather than the rookie Gallacher. However, the other two Englishmen just about picked themselves.
Donald has played in four Ryder Cups. He is a match play specialist and perhaps the best putter in European golf. Waiting for Donald would have been the perfect foursomes partner in Sergio Garcia. However, Donald has had only two decent finishes all season and this has been the most disappointing summer of his career wit a single high finish in all the prestigious events.
Gallacher has won more world ranking points than Donald and Poulter combined. In his last four European starts he finished tied fourth, tied 15th at the Open, tied seventh and third at the Italian Open, the last qualifying event. He was so close to making the team by right that McGinley could not ignore his claims especially as no other player from Scotland was in contention to play in the matches.
At aged 39 Gallacher will be playing in the Ryder Cup for the first time. He has had a consistent season which includes beating Rory McIlroy in Dubai. He is a fabulous bal striker and the hometown hero. However, he lacks Ryder Cup experience and may not be able to handle the unique atmosphere.
Poulter’s selection was never in doubt despite having won fewer world ranking points this year than any other player in the top 40 except the injured Tiger Woods. He has won his last seven Ryder Cup matches and was the difference between the sides at Medinah two years ago. Poulter was playing average golf going into the previous Ryder Cup and was still inspirational both on and off the course.
Westwood has had top-15 finishes in two majors and a win in Malaysia. He has shown signs of his true form this summer including three rounds in the 60s at the US PGA Championship. However, he did not make the top 100 who were eligible for the second FedEx Cup event. Helping his case was the fact that one of McGinley’s assistants, Sam Torrance, said he believes Westwood should be on the team team.
McGinley had to get the balance right between experience and form. Going into a Ryder Cup with three of the twelve team members badly out of form was a risk he was not prepared to take. Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson are the other rookies in the team. There will be at least three debutants in the American side with another two in contention for a wild card pick.
Tom Watson looks certain to give Keegan Bradley a wildcard pick for the United States team. He then had to chose any two from Hunter Mahan, Webb Simpson, Chris Kirk, Brandt Snedeker and Russell Henley. Woods took himself out of the equation and Bradley has stepped up to the plate and will resume his successful partnership with Phil Mickelson. Gallacher will not be fearful of any combination.
Ahead of the Ryder Cup the FedEx Cup playoffs are now in the third of four weeks. The best 70 continue in this week‘s BMW Championship of which 30 will contest the Tour Championship with a chance to win the FedEx Cup and $10 million bonus. As is now common in high quality golf tournaments these days Rory McIlroy is the clear favourite.
One notable absentee is Westwood who despite some improvement in form over several rounds did not show a level of consistency over the course of the season to finish inside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup standings to qualify for last week’s event Even before a back injury disrupted his season Woods had not played well enough in limited number of tournaments to qualify for the post season.
Hunter Mahan and Chris Kirk, winners of the first two playoff events, and world number one McIlroy are amongst a field of 69 players trying to get into the Tour Championship next week. Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell play after taking a week off. Dustin Johnson is the only player missing who is eligible to play. In each of the past two years, two men have played their way to East Lake after starting the BMW Championship outside the top 30.
The BMW field is expected to all nine US qualifiers for the Ryder Cup along with six automatic picks for Europe. Despite the generous prize fund and the chance to qualify to play for $10m next week the main focus of the golfing world will be McGinley and Watson’s wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup.
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