TWO Former Ryder Cup captains, Bernard Gallacher and Colin Montgomerie, believe the former’s nephew, Stephen, should be handed a wildcard today for the match at Gleneagles later this month.
Paul McGinley, the current European incumbent, announces his three captain’s picks at lunchtime, with Gallacher in the running along with English trio Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood as well as Italian Francesco Molinari.
Gallacher, the only one of the quintet not to have played in the Ryder Cup, failed by just a shot to secure the last of nine automatic spots from Graeme McDowell, forcing his uncle into a re-think.
The three-times Ryder Cup captain wrote in his Sunday newspaper column that he reckoned the picks would go to Donald, Poulter and Westwood but now believes his 39-year-old nephew should get the nod ahead of Donald.
“Stephen earning a pick is the way I read it now,” he told The Scotsman, having earlier highlighted the three-times European Tour winner’s form and also his eye-catching record on the PGA Centenary Course, which is set to stage Scotland’s first Ryder Cup since 1973.
Gallacher finished the year-long qualifying campaign closest to the automatic berths, having shown the heart of a lion in Turin to come from 15 shots off the lead starting his second round to finish just two behind the winner, South African Hennie Otto.
“There are two things that have made me change my mind since I said last week that I thought Donald, Poulter and Westwood would get the picks,” added Bernard, who led Europe to victory at Oak Hill in 1995.
“First of all, his putting has got better since he started working with Dave Stockton and he showed that by holing some good ones when he needed to in Italy.
“I think he has also showed a determination to be at Gleneagles and that’s why so many people in the game (world No 1 Rory McIlroy was among those tweeting as Gallacher stormed to the turn in 30) have been commentating on his performance on Sunday as he was so much under the cosh. It would have been easy for him to have had a mediocre round on Sunday and used the pressure he was under as an excuse, but he dug in and showed real determination. In the 12-month qualifying campaign, I think his only blip was missing the cut in the US PGA Championship, that would be his biggest disappointment. But all credit to him because he bounced back well from that.”
Montgomerie, the winning captain at Celtic Manor four years ago, also believes the two-times Dubai Desert Classic champion has done enough to be on McGinley’s list.
“Gallacher fought until the last minute to get there,” said the eight-times European No 1. “He is the most improved player on the European Tour over the last couple of years. That’s the kind of form Paul has been talking about. Gallacher strikes the ball as well as anyone and Gleneagles will suit him. Around a long, wet golf course he is as good as any.”
In their last chances to impress McGinley, Poulter and Donald signed off 66 and 67 respectively in the last round of the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, where the former finished highest of the two.
“I think Luke is the one that could miss out,” said Bernard Gallacher. “I know that Lee Westwood is below him on both the world points list and the world rankings but he responded to being challenged by Paul McGinley on TV. He went out in his next round and closed with a 63 at Firestone then opened with a 65 in the US PGA at Valhalla to finish tied for 15th there.”
Meanwhile, David Howell, who pipped Gallacher for second spot in Turin, has revealed in a tweet that he feels like the most unpopular figure in golf since the 2009 Open. “I feel like Stewart Cink after he beat [Tom Watson] at Turnberry,” wrote the Englishman on the social media site.