Bernard Gallacher believes that Tiger Woods will have little impact on next week’s Ryder Cup, describing his role as one of Davis Love’s US vice-captains as a “red herring”.
The former world No 1 is sitting out his third match in a row after being sidelined for more than a year following back surgery, announcing recently that he is set to make his comeback in the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in California next month.
His appetite for that much-anticipated outing will be whetted by joining Tom Lehman, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk in assisting returning captain Love at Hazeltine, though, having figured on just one winning team in six appearances as a player, it’s no surprise that eyebrows have been raised about Woods’ role for the 41st episode of the biennial bout.
“Ever since I heard Tiger was a vice-captain, I’ve been listening to Davis Love to hear what he can bring to the table and I still can’t see what that is going to be apart from the fact a lot of the US players being youngsters who used to look up to him on the golf course,” said Gallacher, a three-time Ryder Cup captain.
“There will be a hero worship in some respect, but he was never a big contributor as a player in the Ryder Cup, was he? Indeed, during practice rounds at The Belfry in 2002, he was on the course on his own and I remember commentating on that for the radio. I pointed out that Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer always got involved in the team when they played in the Ryder Cup. Tiger wasn’t really a team player and I don’t think he will contribute very much to this event, to be honest. He isn’t a guy who throws a ball on the first tee and goes out for a practice round with anyone. Love will be hoping he brings a presence to the role, but I think it’s a bit of a red herring having him there.
“People like Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk will contribute more. The trouble with Tom Lehman is that he plays on the Champions Tour, so Love will be relying on Stricker and Furyk, who still play on the main Tour to help him out.”
Having lost eight out of the last 10 matches, the Americans set up a “task force” in the wake of a heavy defeat two years ago at Gleneagles, where Paul McGinley’s meticulous preparation helped him gain the upper hand on a more decorated and experienced opponent in Tom Watson.
“They had to do something because they were losing so many matches,” said Gallacher, pictured. “That’s why they decided to have a rethink and put their heads together. What they came to the conclusion about was that picking the team over two years, as they did in the past, meant that some players had collected all the points in the first year.
“This time they’ve made a real effort to get on-form players. They changed the points system and have left one open until the Tour Championship – five days before the event. The fact they are trying to pick four players on form shows how much the Ryder Cup means to them.”
After narrow defeats at Kiawah Island in 1991 then The Belfry two years later, it was third-time lucky for Gallacher as captain as Europe recorded a dramatic 14½-13½ victory at Oak Hill in 1995. Both Bernhard Langer, at Oakland Hills in 2004, and Jose Maria Olazabal, who inspired the “Miracle at Medinah” four years ago, have also been winning captains on US soil since then and now Gallacher is hoping that Darren Clarke can join that club, too.
“The US are always tough to beat, especially in America,” said the Scot. “Ian Poulter turned the match around at Medinah last time over there as we were on course to lose [trailing 10-6 after two days] until the whole team became inspired in the singles and we managed to come through at the end.
“As far as the PGA of America are concerned, it’s unfinished business for Davis Love [who got Team USA into that winning position at Medinah] and they want him to finish it off at Hazeltine. That’s something for our team to get into them about.
“It would be good if we went in as underdogs as I think that’s always a good position to be in. As long as the players don’t feel that, of course. That would put all the pressure on to the Americans to deliver. The Europeans are good at rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in. The Americans will know that and, hopefully, that will put pressure on the Americans as well. It will be a close one to call.”