BERNARD Gallacher believes Sam Torrance is almost certain to be appointed a Ryder Cup vice-captain next week but not because Paul McGinley has made a knee-jerk reaction to opposite number Tom Watson opting for bags of experience in his backroom team at Gleneagles.
Having initially hinted that it was likely to be the summer before he revealed his hand in terms of assistants for September’s much-anticipated match in Perthshire, European captain McGinley is now set to make an announcement in Dublin a week today.
That follows five-times Open champion and US skipper Watson recently adding Ray Floyd to his non-playing personnel, the 71-year-old joining 64-year-old Watson and Andy North, 63, in a line-up being dubbed a “Dad’s Army”. “It may be a ‘Dad’s Army’ off the golf course but that’s only because it is probably going to be a ‘Young Army’ on it,” said Gallacher, who captained Europe three times and led them to a dramatic victory at Oak Hill in 1995.
“Tom wants experience in his backroom team to help his players. He does a lot of research into everything. He’ll have talked it over with people about why they’ve not been successful in the recent past and he obviously feels he needs experienced assistants – people who’ve been there and done it at the top level. Tom is someone that certainly fits the ball, as do Andy North and Raymond Floyd.”
A four-times major winner, Floyd has an impressive Ryder Cup record, having racked up seven wins and two draws in ten matches, his sole defeat coming as a player in the 1985 match at The Belfry. He captained the side at the same venue in 1989 before returning as a player there four years later under Watson.
“I think he’s the only player to achieve that feat, which is quite an achievement, and I know from experience that Ray is a ferocious competitor,” added Gallacher. “I’ve known him for a long time and I’m quite friendly with him, actually. His son went to the same college in America at the same time as my son, Jamie, and we used to bump into each other when I went over there for a visit.
“He’s mentally strong, that’s for certain. And that’s probably what Tom feels has been missing from the American players in recent Ryder Cups. I can imagine Raymond being in the team room with some of the younger American players and Tom asking him to tell them how to overcome nerves and play their best golf in a Ryder Cup. He’ll bring lots of experience.”
Gallacher, though, is adamant that McGinley’s decision to make his announcement regarding right-hand men sooner than expected is unconnected. “Paul is incredibly methodical and well prepared,” he said. “He’s also looking into everything and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Sam Torrance being appointed as one of his vice captains. I noticed that Paul had called a press conference for next week to make an announcement about that but I don’t believe it is a reaction to anything that Tom Watson has done.
“Paul played under Sam at The Belfry [in 2002] and he’ll have seen that Sam did a good job in getting the team room relaxed. He got them in the right mood and, while I could be wrong here, I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t ask Sam. But people certainly shouldn’t think he’d be doing that as a reaction to Tom picking Ray Floyd – I think he’s had this idea up his sleeve for a while.”
If McGinley was hoping he’d have an ace up his sleeve for September in the shape of Victor Dubuisson, that went out of the window as the talented Frenchman made the Americans sit up and take notice by reaching the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona last weekend.
“Victor is in the team now – he can’t miss out,” acknowledged Gallacher. “I think he’s shown that he is mentally strong and is someone that gets the best out of his game. If you want new players, in your side, it’s people like him that you want. He’ll bring a youthfulness to the side. He’ll probably be disappointed that he didn’t win the Match Play, but just look at the scalps he claimed. Apparently, he’s very strong mentally and, if I was the captain, I’d be pleased to have him in the side, no doubt.”
Having broken into the world’s top 50 after completing his Dubai Desert Classic double earlier this month, Bernard’s nephew, Stephen, has also given himself a chance of making that team. “He needs to have a good big tournament somewhere – and he’s certainly capable of doing that,” noted Gallacher. “It’s great that he’s in events like this week’s Honda Classic.”