5 Things: Gallacher makes his Ryder Cup case

Stephen Gallacher needed to finish in second place to secure an automatic berth on the Ryder Cup team, but came up a shot short in Italy.
Stephen Gallacher needed to finish in second place to secure an automatic berth on the Ryder Cup team, but came up a shot short in Italy. ( Associated Press )

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hennie Otto won the Italian Open on Sunday, but he was only the subplot to a much bigger story – that being the chase for the European Ryder Cup team, with this event being the final points event prior to the matches at Gleneagles in late September.

Here are 5 Things to take away from the action in Turin, Italy:

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1. WAS THAT ENOUGH? That was the question on everyone’s lips after Stephen Gallacher just missed making the European Ryder Cup team. The Scot needed to finish second but came up just one shot short in third place.

Gallacher finished at 17 under, a shot behind David Howell and three shots behind Otto.

Will it be enough to convince European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley to select the 39-year-old as one of his three wild-card picks?

Gallacher couldn’t have done much more to convince McGinley he can play well under pressure. He closed with a 7-under 65, and would have secured second if not for Howell’s 63.

“It was a tall order to finish first or second,” Gallacher said. “I’m proud of the way I played. It came to the last shot of the last qualifying event, so you can’t get any closer than that.

“It comes down to somebody’s else’s opinion. I wanted to qualify to take that away. There are four or five guys who are worthy. It just depends on what Paul sees.”

Gallacher is in contention for one of the three picks along with Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari. Conventional wisdom says McGinley will go for the three experienced men in Donald, Poulter and Westwood. However, Gallacher might have done enough to convince McGinley he’s worthy of a place at Gleneagles.

Howell certainly believes Gallacher would be an asset to the European side.

“I really hope Stephen gets a pick because he’d make a fantastic Ryder Cup player,” Howell said. “It was a supreme effort. If the captain needs any nudge that someone is in form and can play well under pressure then Stephen has done it.”

Over to you captain McGinley.

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2. 'LET'S NOT GET CARRIED AWAY:' McGinley missed the cut in Italy, but hung around as part of his television commitments to Sky Sports. He said Gallacher has done enough to make him a consideration, but also threw in a few caveats.

“His performance this week will certainly be in his favor when it comes to making a pick, but there’s a lot of emotion at the moment and I need to pour some cold water on it. There are a lot of stats to be looked at. There are other players to be looked at," McGinley said.

“There’s still golf going on in America which is going to be influential in terms of the picks too. In the cold light of day I will sit down tomorrow with the two vice-captains, Des (Smyth) and Sam (Torrance). We will assess everything and hopefully come up with three picks that are going to add to what is an already strong nine players.

“Let’s not get too carried away. I’ve got to be fair to everybody, and I’ve got do what’s best for Europe. I like to assess things in a cold way and there’s a lot more to it than the emotion of Stephen’s performance.”

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3. TOUGHEST RACE EVER: McGinley believes this year’s European team has been the hardest to make.

“This has been the toughest ever Ryder Cup team to make from a European point of view in terms of the number of points you need to amass to make the European team,” McGinley said. “So he (Gallacher) really has been up against it. For a rank and file guy from the European Tour, who doesn’t play in America and misses out on a lot of world ranking points as a result, to play as well as he does all credit to him.”

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4. SHOWING OLD FORM: Howell posted his best finish in a year thanks to his closing 63.

“Second place is my best finish of the year by a long way since the Dunhill nearly one year ago,” he said. “Hopefully it’s going to solidify my place in the Final Series, which we all want to be part of.”

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5. DROUGHT OVER: Otto was extremely emotional when he left the 18th green after his first European Tour victory since the 2011 SA Open.

The 38-year-old has been known for his explosive temper in his younger days. Once after a bad round during the South African Masters at the Wild Coast Country Club, he snapped every club in his bag except his putter, place them in his tour bag and tossed them into the Umzimkulu River.

Otto’s a reformed character now. He’s found religion and credited his success to finding his way through his faith.