McGinley's decision: Go with Gallacher or star trio?

Paul McGinley will make his three captain's picks on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. EDT.
Paul McGinley will make his three captain's picks on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. EDT. ( Associated Press )

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What message will Paul McGinley send to the European Tour’s rank and file if he doesn’t select Stephen Gallacher as a wild-card pick when McGinley makes his three choices at Wentworth Golf Club on Tuesday morning?

McGinley won’t admit it, but he faces a minor quandary. Does he reward Gallacher’s commitment to the European Tour and the Ryder Cup race, or does he go with three guys who – let’s face it – are PGA Tour players who play the European Tour only part-time?

If the European captain opts for the tried-and-tested trio of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald and omits Gallacher, then surely the message to European Tour pros is that the selection process is heavily stacked in favor of those guys who play both tours.

Gallacher doesn’t have a PGA Tour card. He’s a full-time European Tour player, and the majority of his points have come from playing in European Tour events, most of which offer fewer world-ranking points than the PGA Tour events award Poulter, Westwood and Donald.

From the start of the qualifying process at last year’s Wales Open, Gallacher has played in 27 European Tour events qualifying for Ryder Cup points. Donald played in 15, and Westwood and Poulter appeared in 14 each.

In other words, Gallacher has gone the extra mile to try to make this year’s team, falling just one shot short of the second-place finish that he needed in the Italian Open to qualify automatically. He finished third.

Even McGinley acknowledged Gallacher’s effort, highlighting just how tough it is for rank-and-file members to make modern European Ryder Cup teams.

“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,” McGinley said. “So he 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.”

There is precedence for picking Gallacher. Four years ago, Colin Montgomerie selected Edoardo Molinari after the Italian won the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, the last counting event in the race, but fell short of automatic selection.

Montgomerie thought he had to select the Italian on form. He also would have faced a rank-and-file backlash had he not picked Molinari. McGinley has the same challenge.

The Irishman is part of the European Tour’s hierarchy. He’s a long-standing member of the European Tour’s tournament committee, the 15-man group that looks after the interests of European Tour players. As such he will feel compelled to reward Gallacher’s commitment. At the same time, McGinley will want to do what’s best to win the Ryder Cup, and the safe option is to go with the three experienced players.

Europe’s rank-and-file will view McGinley’s three wild-card picks with much interest.