Bernard Gallacher believes Tiger Woods is ready at long last to show that he can be a “team player” in this week’s Ryder Cup in France.
Woods has a poor record in the event, having only been on the winning side once in seven previous Ryder Cups as a player. He was a vice captain when the United States won at Hazeltine two years ago but is back as a player at Le Golf National after earning one of Jim Furyk’s four picks.
“You’ve got to admire the way he’s come back from all his back surgeries,” said Gallacher, who played in the match eight times before captaining Europe on three occasions, including a 1995 win at Oak Hill. “It was a career-threatening situation that he’s come through.
“We always expect a lot from Tiger, but he was the one who said that everyone needed to be patient with him and he’s certainly earned his place on this team. Who would not want to pick Tiger for your Ryder Cup team? I know his record in the past in foursomes and fourballs hasn’t been great.
“But the reason for that is that Tiger intimidates his partner as much as the opposition. He has a good record in singles. In fact, I think that Costantino Rocca in 1997 is the only player to have beaten him in singles and that was a pivotal match.
“I’m glad he’s in the team and he wants to be in the team, which is important. In the past, he didn’t really seem bothered about the Ryder Cup. He wasn’t really a team player. But I think we are seeing a new Tiger Woods – someone who can be a team player now. He wants to be captain down the road.
“He was a vice captain at Hazeltine and was set to do the same role this time until he played his way on to the team. He’s showing a strong commitment to the Ryder Cup cause these days, which is great for the event.”
Bidding for a first win on European soil, the Americans head into the match as strong favourites due to the fact all 12 of their players are sitting inside the world’s top 25. “The Americans always go in favourites. Even when we were winning a lot, they still seemed to be favourites,” observed Lothians legend Gallacher. “As a captain and a player, it’s important that you don’t take account of what the bookmakers are saying.
“I’d say it is going to be tough for the Europeans but what will equalise things is a) we are playing at home and more importantly b) on a course that our players know very well.
“The French Open has been played on this course for many years and I’ve always felt that has been a big advantage for our players.
“If you look back to The K Club, where the European Open was played. If you look back to Valderrama, where we played the Volvo Masters. At Valderrama, the Americans couldn’t learn how to play it in two or three days as that is a tough course to get to grips with. It was the same at The Belfry and Celtic Manor and, of course, Gleneagles, where our players had played in the Johnnie Walker Championship for a number of years.
“These are all huge advantages. The players know the golf course. The captains know what players do well on that course. Fingers crossed that will even things up this time.”
As an ex-captain, Gallacher was invited to Le Golf National but has politely declined, preferring to stay at home in Ascot to watch the event on TV with his wife, Lesley.
“The funny thing is that I don’t want to be there now,” he said. “When I worked for Radio Five Live, I enjoyed it. But I decided to retire from radio after Gleneagles because it was getting too much walking around the course twice in the same day and also being up early then getting to bed late.
“I’m really looking forward to watching on TV. I was invited to go over to Paris but you end up watching it in a hospitality unit. We are going to stay at home, put our feet up and enjoy Ewen Murray’s commentary.”