BERNARD Gallacher has been in Tom Watson’s shoes as a Ryder Cup captain facing the prospect of being grilled mercilessly about one player.
More than 20 years ago, Gallacher told Nick Faldo he’d be receiving a wild card, even though the European captain felt it was being “wasted”, and earned a ticking off from Seve Ballesteros.
One of Watson’s wild cards for September’s match against Gleneagles looks as though it may have to be earmarked for Tiger Woods. He’s recovering after undergoing back surgery a fortnight ago and is facing a race against time to be fit in time for the season’s second major, the US Open at Pinehurst in June.
His situation is being closely monitored by Watson, who initially said he’d definitely pick the world No 1 but earlier this added that he’d also “need to be playing well” to be on the plane that will bring the United States team to Scotland later in the year. It’s a scenario that Gallacher knows too well from the 1993 match at The Belfry – the second of his three cracks at captaincy in the biennial bout. “I remember guaranteeing Nick Faldo a place for that match,” he said. “Unlike Tiger, Nick wasn’t unjured. He’d simply announced that he wasn’t going to play any more tournaments in the qualifying campaign. He wasn’t in the team so I came out and said, ‘I’m going to pick you’.
“He was the No 1 player at the time and I couldn’t be bothered with having the press coming to me all the time and asking if I was going to pick Nick or not. That’s why I came out and said, ‘I’m definitely going to pick him’. Seve, a big influence in those days, came up to me and said that was the wrong thing to do. I said, ‘Seve, you really don’t understand what the press are like in Britain’. I said this was going to be a story and that he knew and I knew that I was going to pick him.
“It was ridiculous that I had to pick Faldo. It’s like a waste of a wild card having to pick your best player. At that time, though, it was more difficult as there was no world points list like they have today. He couldn’t have qualified through the European system as he wasn’t playing in enough tournaments to do that.
“I think Tom Watson will be very pleased when Tiger is back playing again because I think he will take that tact with him. I think he’ll guarantee him a spot but he’ll want to see him playing first.
“Originally, for the same reasons as me, Tom came out and said Tiger would be in the team for Gleneagles. I think it’s becoming evident that Tiger’s rehab is going to take longer than people think. He then has to put the practice in and get competitive again and that’s why I think Tom has had a slight re-think just to cover himself.”
Gallacher was speaking in Edinburgh as he revealed plans to make his first competitive appearance in more than five years. It will be in the Tomatin Homecoming Pro-Am, a 54-hole event on the Tartan Tour taking place at Castle Stuart, Nairn and Royal Dornoch almost straight after the Ryder Cup.
“I’m back to normal and play two or three times a week,” said the 65-year-old of his major health scare last year. “I play at both Wentworth and also Sunningdale, though not with Sam Torrance as I couldn’t afford to play with him!
“While I’ve played a few pro-ams as well as some events when I was the Variety Club’s golf captain, it’s at least five years since I played competitively and I’m not keen on playing badly so that encourages me to practise.The Tomatin event fits in well for me as I’m doing radio work at the Ryder Cup, so I’ll just point the car north instead of south when I come out of Gleneagles.”