Gallacher tells Paul Lawrie to think again about missing the US Open

Bernard Gallacher has urged Paul Lawrie, Scotland’s top-ranked golfer for the first time in his career, to reconsider a decision to skip the forthcoming US Open, claiming the on-form Aberdonian is set to miss out on a genuine chance of winning a second major.

The 43-year-old, who has climbed 11 places in the world rankings to a career-best 29th on the back of his second-place finish behind Luke Donald in the PGA Championship at Wentworth on Sunday, has said for some time now that he would not be travelling to the Olympic Club in San Francisco for the second major of the season.

He believes that US Open courses don’t necessarily suit his game and, moreover, reckons he will have a better chance of making the European Ryder Cup team later in the year if he stays at home in a fortnight’s time to prepare for an important run of events on this side of the Atlantic, starting with the BMW International Open in Germany.

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Jose Maria Olazabal, who will skipper the European team at Medinah in September, yesterday applauded Lawrie’s decision – “It says a lot about what he thinks of the Ryder Cup, how important it is to him,” said the Spaniard – but Gallacher, the winning captain at Oak Hill in 1995, reckons the former Open champion should be heading to California.

“Paul should re-consider because his game is good enough to win it,” he told The Scotsman. “The players were talking about Wentworth having a US Open feel to it, due to it being bouncy and, apart from Luke Donald, no-one coped better than Paul. It has nothing to do with me, but I would implore Paul to think again as he might regret his decision later.

“I can see why some players might look at a trip to California upsetting their schedule, but I genuinely believe he has the game to win the US Open and he proved that at Wentworth.

“At 63, I still feel regret about not getting the chance to play in a US Open. Even though I was playing in Ryder Cups and winning in Europe, I never managed to qualify.”

Lawrie has climbed above 33rd-placed Martin Laird in the world rankings after a sixth top-ten finish of the season in the European Tour’s flagship event. It also saw him jump three spots in the Race to Dubai, from eighth to fifth, while he’s up to second in the European Ryder Cup points table.

“I think he will be in the team and he may already have done enough to secure an automatic spot. It’s going to take a few people to do really well over the next few months, not just one or two, to deny him,” added Gallacher. “He’s certainly good enough to be on the team again as he’s right behind Luke Donald in terms of his game at the moment.

“I think when Paul won the Open [in 1999] he felt he had a responsibility to the game rather than himself. He’s done great things for Scottish golf and sport in general with his Foundation and I respect him for that. But time marches on.

“In my opinion, he should have been thinking more of himself and I’m pleased he is now because he is too good. I think he knows now that he should have played in more Ryder Cups and won more tournaments.

“After Luke Donald, the second most impressive player on the final day at Wentworth was undoubtedly Paul. Take the last hole, for instance. He smashed his drive down there to find the perfect position. The flag was in a dangerous position close to the water but he went straight at it and was right over the flag. He was unlucky not to make an eagle.

“It’s not inconceivable that he will win another major. When the tough need to get going, he can hit the shots that are required. He was angry at himself after throwing away his semi-final in the World Match Play and that was a good sign. Luke Donald has a lovely rhythm but so, too, does Paul. He’s right up there with the best of them in terms of method and he’s putting well, too, at the moment. He’s got the total game – but I think he’s had that for a while.”

Gallacher, the former Wentworth professional who still lives in nearby Ascot, also gave his opinion on the foul-mouthed outburst launched by Ernie Els on Saturday about the condition of the course, the South African letting rip at both the green staff and the European Tour.

“I think Ernie let himself down with his comments on Saturday. I think he’s been bottling things up ever since the changes he made to the course were criticised,” said Gallacher. “Even Ian Poulter, who has made no secret of the fact the course isn’t his favourite, hasn’t come out with anything like Ernie said.

“When the weather is in the 80s and you’ve got a 20mph wind like they had on Saturday, the only way you could have kept the greens from drying out was by stopping play and putting water on them. I think Ernie is at the stage of his career at the moment where he lets his frustrations boil over at times.”