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Ryder Cup: Gallacher closes in on Europe team spot

Stephen Gallacher could yet make the Europe team for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Picture: Getty

Stephen Gallacher could yet make the Europe team for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Picture: Getty

  • by MARTIN DEMPSTER
 

EVERYWHERE you looked, there was positive news for Stephen Gallacher on the back of him tying for sixth in the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Sunday night – a career-best performance for the Lothians man on American soil.

It jumped him up two spots to 37th in the world rankings, thereby securing a Masters debut for the 39-year-old in just over a month’s time. It also moved him to eighth on Europe’s Ryder Cup world points list and, if the qualifying had ended yesterday, then Gallacher would have secured an automatic berth for Gleneagles along with Victor Dubuisson, Henrik Stenson, Jamie Donaldson, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Thomas Bjorn and Joost Luiten.

No-one needs to tell Gallacher that race still has a long way to go, hence the reason he’s

keeping the lid on any Ryder Cup talk at the moment, but he’s in there with a strong chance now and that is great for Scottish golf in the build-up to the much-anticipated event in September.

So, too, is his presence in sixth spot in this season’s Race to Dubai, a winner’s cheque for just over £250,000 for a successful Desert Classic title defence having now been followed into his bank account by one for just over £182,000 – £60,000 of which was secured through the sensational third shot at the 18th on the Blue

Monster that salvaged a par on the 72nd hole.

The profitable spell – it has bolstered his season’s winnings to close to £520,000 – has seen Gallacher, who now has a two-week break before the new EurAsia Cup in Malaysia, make a notable move in the European Tour

career earnings after leapfrogging Sir Nick Faldo.

With lifetime winnings of £6,871,955, the Scot is up to 41st – one above the three-times Open champion – but still has some work on his hands to overtake 25th-ranked Paul Lawrie (£9,977,615) and, in particular, Colin Montgomerie, who sits third behind Ernie Els and Lee Westwood with his total prize haul of £20,474,684.

Reed grabs win by one

Reed overcame a late wobble to post the biggest win of his career by a single shot as Welshman Jamie Donaldson posted his best WGC finish with a share of second place.

The American was two shots clear overnight and doubled that advantage with three birdies and a bogey in his opening four holes.

Donaldson and Bubba Watson reduced the gap to three as Reed recorded nine straight pars, before a missed putt from inside five feet cost the American a bogey at the 14th.

Donaldson then got within one shot after a magnificent approach to the 17th left him a tap-in birdie, only to bogey the last after finding sand with his approach.

That meant the 38-year-old signed for a closing 70 to join former Masters winner Watson in the clubhouse on three under par, with Reed still needing to negotiate a 55 foot birdie putt on the 17th and the Blue Monster’s daunting 18th, the latter where Martin Kaymer carded the only birdie of the final round.

Reed knocked his effort on the 17th to tap-in range to erase any concerns of a three-putt bogey, then laid up at the last and two putted for victory in his first WGC stroke-play event, having made his debut at the recent Accenture Match Play Championship.

At 23 years old, he also becomes the youngest winner of a WGC event, breaking the record of world No. 1 Tiger Woods by 26 days.

“It means a lot to come out here and play as well as I did, with Tiger close to the lead and Hunter Mahan really close, Jason Dufner, all those great guys that are Major winners who have been on Ryder Cup teams,” said the winner.

“I have a lot of confidence in my game. It’s one of those things that you build confidence by how hard you work, and I feel like I’m one of the hardest workers out here and it definitely shows,”

Donaldson’s consolation is that he firmly underlined his Ryder Cup credentials courtesy of his best performance on American soil.

“I played really well all week,” said Donaldson, whose previous best WGC finish came when he was eighth at last year’s HSBC Champions.

“My long game was really good from tee to green. I think in the end, it’s come down to not quite holing enough putts, but I hit a lot of good putts this week and sometimes they just don’t go in.

“I’m happy with the week overall. I’ve gone out there and played as well as I can, and shot as low a score as I can in the conditions that we’ve had to play in all week, and that’s all I can do really.“It’s nice to come here and have a great week on what is a very tough golf course.”

Tiger suffers last round meltdown

Meanwhile, Woods eventually finished nine shots adrift of Reed after a disastrous final round 78, with his back injury clearly hampering his efforts.

The world No. 1 was in contention after a superb six-under-par 66 on Saturday left him three shots adrift overnight.

Needing a strong start to have any chance of putting pressure on the frontrunners, Woods began with two pars but bogeys at the third and fourth undermined his challenge and another one at the sixth left him needing a miracle.

In the end, it was to the 38-year-old’s credit that he managed to complete his round, as he came home in a tie for 25th.

Rory McIlroy had begun the weekend one shot off the lead, but the former world No. 1 suffered a dismal final two rounds to finish five shots off the pace.

“I feel like I struck the ball well for the most part,” said McIlroy. “On the greens I didn’t get anything going with the putter and anytime I missed the green I didn’t really get anything going.”

 

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