STEPHEN Gallacher is hoping to strike up a Ryder Cup partnership with Welshman Jamie Donaldson when a team journey which will hopefully have Gleneagles as its final destination continues in Malaysia this week.
The Scot joined forces with compatriot Paul Lawrie in both the Seve Trophy and Royal Trophy last season but needs a new partner for the inaugural EurAsia Cup starting in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.
And, having been sounded out by the European captain, Miguel Angel Jimenez, during the recent WGC Cadillac Championship in Miami, Gallacher believes he could be paired with Donaldson.
“I spoke to Miguel at Doral and he asked me who I would like to play with,” revealed the 39-year-old. “I’m friendly with Jamie Donaldson, but I said to Miguel I’d be happy to play with anyone. It doesn’t bother me.”
Donaldson, sitting at the top of the European points list, already looks to have secured his spot in Paul McGinley’s side for September’s match in Perthshire.If that team was named today, Gallacher would also get in automatically after following up his feat in becoming the first player in the event’s 25-year history to retain the Dubai Desert Classic in early February with a top-10 finish at Doral.
However, he knows that the qualifying race has only just passed the halfway mark and, therefore, is intentionally keeping a lid on the dream scenario of making his debut in the biennial event less than 40 miles from his home on the outskirts of Linlithgow.
For the time being, Gallacher is happy to be involved in another team event featuring potential Ryder Cup players then returning home to prepare for his Masters debut in a fortnight’s time. While he has yet to receive the prized invitation from Augusta National, there’s now no danger of him falling out of the world’s top 50 – he’s 38th – before the end of this month, so it should be waiting on him next week.
“These team events are great,” admitted Gallacher, who had Sam Torrance as his captain for Great Britain & Ireland in the Seve Trophy in October then, just before Christmas, Jose Maria Olazabal when he represented Europe in the Royal Trophy.
“You don’t play a lot of them, it’s always a good laugh and they bring back a lot of good memories,” he added in reference to his days representing both Scotland and GB&I as an amateur.
“Having put Miguel in charge and Des Smyth is there, too, as an assistant captain, Paul McGinley obviously has got an eye on this week’s event. But I’m not even thinking about the Ryder Cup team. That will only become relevant well after The Open and the USPGA Championship. There’s so many big peaks along the way. You’ve just got to do the day-to-day stuff and, hopefully, that will take care of itself.”
That approach has worked well so far and Gallacher, lying seventh in this season’s Race to Dubai, is certainly feeling confident as he heads into a run of events that will see him criss-cross the globe in the coming weeks.
Instead of taking up an invitation to stay in the States the week after The Masters and tee up in the RBC Heritage event at Hilton Head, he will head back to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Open.
“The only reason I’m doing that is that Louis Oosthuizen beat me out there (by three shots in 2012) and he came straight from The Masters,” he noted. “He thought he would tire near the end, but he actually finished strong, so it can be done.”
Gallacher will also play in the Volvo China Open on that trip to the Far East before heading back across the Atlantic for the Players Championship, the unofficial fifth major, at Sawgrass then return to British shores for another big event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
In each of those events, he will step on to the first tee believing he can win, having shown in the WGC Cadillac Championship that he has found his feet in the company of the game’s elite.
“I got a lot of confidence from that,” he reflected. “The course was so tough and they are the best fields you play against outside the majors. So to finish top ten was brilliant. It’s like a learning curve. Playing in the WGCs is like being a new schoolkid. You don’t know what to expect.
“But the more you play them the more you get to know the boys and you feel more part of it and settle down. I feel I belong there now. I’ve never felt out of my depth [playing in the US], but you just don’t know what to expect. It’s all different. It’s all new. But I’m getting into it now.
“At first you’re trying to get into these events, now you’re trying to win them. It’s not like ‘brilliant, I’m in this event’, it’s now, ‘right, give this a really good go and try and be prepared to win it’. It’s a change in mindset, a change in beliefs.”
It is fuelling a nation’s belief that the first Ryder Cup to be staged in the home of golf in more than 40 years will feature a Scottish player.