With 24 days to go until the first tee shot is struck at Gleneagles, European captain Paul McGinley has revealed the three wildcard picks to complete his Ryder Cup line-up.
Ian Poulter, Stephen Gallacher and Lee Westwood will join Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Victor Dubuisson, Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson and Graeme McDowell when the contest begins on September 26.
At a news conference this lunchtime, McGinley spoke of how difficult the decision was to make: ‘I’m a very lucky man to have such a variety of talent to choose from,’ he said. ‘Other players performed incredibly well and didn’t make the team. These three players will add a lot to the nine and make the European team strong to take on the might of America.’
Rookie Gallacher agonisingly missed out on the final automatic spot when finishing third at the Italian Open in Torino last week, and McGinley said that effort from the Scot earned him his pick: ‘His performance in Italy under the spotlight was huge. He’ll look back on it at the end of his career as the biggest highlight. My performance in 2004 in the very last event to make the team was my proudest moment as a professional golfer and Stevie will feel like that.’
McGinley revealed that Gallacher’s first words after being told he’d made the team were ‘that’s brilliant wee man’, before explaining how he will feel as the only Scot on the team: ‘I’m very proud for him being Scottish. Having played a Ryder Cup in my home country in 2006 I know how special it will feel for him.’
The Irishman explained how he telephoned all the players in contention at around 8:30pm on Monday night: ‘There was a real sense of pride from Lee ahead of his ninth appearance and I could feel the energy coming down the phone from Ian,’ he said.
‘Lee Westwood was 16th on the points list so I called everybody before him. So people like Joost [Luiten], Francesco [Molinari] and Bernhard Langer out of respect. As a former captain I really want to have a chat with Bernhard before it starts to get his thoughts on one or two things. Francesco was a very serious contender and he was incredibly humble and accepting of my decision.’
Englishman Luke Donald is perhaps the most high-profile absentee and seemingly the name that McGinley agonised over the most: ‘It was a very difficult conversation,’ he said.
‘Luke was very, very disappointed. Our relationship is very close. I was his partner for his first match in 2004, I played with him in 2006 and vice-captained him in 2010 and 2012. He’s a former world number one, his Ryder Cup record stands up with anyone’s in the game and he will go on to make many more appearances in the future. His last two words were ‘Go Europe’.