European captain Paul McGinley will leave personal feelings to one side as he weighs up current form against Ryder Cup experience in making his wild card selections.
The nine automatic qualifiers for McGinley’s team were confirmed on Sunday when Stephen Gallacher narrowly failed to dislodge Graeme McDowell from the side, the Scot finishing one shot outside the tie for second place he needed in the Italian Open.
McGinley hailed Gallacher’s “terrific performance” in closing with a flawless 65 to follow his seventh place in the previous event, but was quick to stress he would coldly ass-ess the situation after the conclusion of the Deutsche Bank Championship, which finished last night to coincide with Labour Day in the US rather than the usual Sunday finish.
Although there are no qualifying points on offer, ‘Miracle at Medinah’ heroes Luke Donald and Ian Poulter were competing in Boston, while another wild card hopeful, Lee Westwood, failed to qualify for the second FedEx Cup Playoff event.
“There will be some very difficult decisions to be made,” McGinley said. “I have been on Tour now for 21 years, I know everyone.
“I spoke about the bonding I felt with players I have played with, they would walk in the door and we have a sixth sense. You can imagine how difficult it’s going to be for me if I have to call one of them up and say ‘I’m sorry, you’re not one of my picks, I am maybe going with a rookie I don’t have any bonding with’.
“That’s going to be very difficult for me but I am prepared for that. Olly (2012 captain Jose Maria Olazabal) made a wonderful point when people were talking about is he going to pick a player because you like or don’t like them, and he said this is the Ryder Cup. I’m here to win the Ryder Cup.
“Personal things go out the window and that’s what it will be for me. I am prepared for the tough decisions, I am not afraid to make those.”
McGinley played alongside Westwood in 2002, 2004 and 2006, with Donald in 2004 and 2006 and just once with Poulter (2004), but was also vice-captain in 2010 and 2012 when all three players helped Europe claim narrow wins at Celtic Manor and Medinah.
The 47-year-old Dubliner will therefore be well aware of Poulter’s heroics in Chicago and, to a slightly lesser extent, the vital contributions of Donald and Westwood.
With Europe 10-4 down on Saturday afternoon, Donald and Sergio Garcia beat Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker on the 18th and the Englishman then went on to beat Bubba Watson in the opening singles match. Westwood lost two foursomes and was carried to victory by Nicolas Colsaerts in the fourballs, but secured a vital win over Matt Kuchar on the final day.
Westwood has made eight appearances in succession and won 21 points from 37 matches, while Donald has claimed 10-and-a-half points from 15 and Poulter an incredible 12 from 15.
It seems highly unlikely that Poulter would be left out despite an indifferent, injury-plagued season, and one of his posts on Twitter could be interpreted as meaning he has already been given the nod.
“It’s simple play well tomorrow fly to Colorado for the BMW. Or the next strokeplay event would be the BMW in Shanghai,” Poulter wrote. The Ryder Cup is, of course, a match play event.
McGinley may also recall that Poulter and Donald were among the high-profile names to give him their backing as captain, Donald writing at the time: “I hope Paul McGinley gets his chances, he’s been an amazing vice-captain and deserves his opportunity.”
Against the past, McGinley must weigh up the present and Gallacher undoubtedly presents the strongest case for inclusion on current form.
The 39-year-old finished seventh in the Czech Masters to give himself a better chance of qualifying in the final event, where he started his second round 15 shots off the lead after Hennie Otto’s superb 62.
From outside the cut line after six holes, Gallacher stormed home in 30 for a 65 and also shot 65 on Sunday, only to be denied by a flawless 63 from good friend David Howell.
Gallacher lives just 60kms from Gleneagles and has recorded seven top-10 finishes there in his last 12 appearances.
McIlroy was among those on Twitter cheering on Gallacher during Sunday’s final round, where Holland’s Joost Luiten also boosted his slim wild card hopes with a 65 to finish joint fourth.