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.
Chris Kirk threw his hat into the Ryder Cup ring when another impressive round in the company of the world No1 Rory McIlroy helped him win the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of the four FedEx Cup Playoff events, yesterday.
The 29-year-old American, who finished the year-long qualifying for the nine automatic spots in 14th position, shot a bogey-free round of five-under par 66 to finish on 15-under 269 and two shots ahead of Americans Billy Horschel and Russell Henley and Geoff Ogilvy.
Winner of The McGladrey Classic in the 2013-14 season of the PGA Tour, the world No45 would have surely impressed captain Tom Watson. In Sunday’s third round, he matched a rampant McIlroy shot-for-shot in a round of 64, and then outplayed the Northern Irishman by four shots yesterday.
After making the turn at three-under par, Kirk took the outright lead with a 22-feet birdie putt on the 13th hole, and then consolidated his position with a 14-footer on the 15th hole.
Horschel needed a birdie on the final hole to tie Kirk, but after bombing his drive way down the fairway on the par-5 hole, he chunked his six-iron second shot into the hazard for a bogey.
The round of the day came from the resurgent Ogilvy. The Aussie was the last man to make the field after missing the cut at The Barclays, but rounds of 65 on Sunday and yesterday helped him finish tied second at 13-under par and moved him all the way to 24th place.
McIlroy, who was aiming for his fourth win in five starts, just could not get going and finished tied fifth at 11-under par 273 following a round of 70.
Ian Poulter gave European captain Paul McGinley something to cheer ahead of naming his three wild cards today, making as many as eight birdies in his final-round 65. The Ryder Cup maestro has been struggling with his form this year.
Meanwhile, Luke Donald (67) admitted he wasn’t too sure he will be named one of the three picks today after failing to make it to the third event of the Playoffs.
Donald did well to make four birdies in his last seven holes, but after finishing at even par 284, he said: “If you’d asked me a few weeks ago, I feel like I probably was going to be (picked). Now I’m not so sure.
“Hopefully, he looks a little past form. It’s not a nice feeling to wait it out. If you don’t make it automatically you only have yourself to blame. I wouldn’t hold it against captain McGinley.”
Ryder Cup captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson take centre stage on Tuesday when they both name their three wildcard picks to complete their lineups for Gleneagles.
McGinley in particular is facing a tough choice with two former world number ones, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, along with the Ryder Cup hero of two years ago Ian Poulter all failing to make it into the nine automatic qualifying slots.
Normally they would all be clearcut picks for the Irishman, but complicating the situation is the good form of Scotland's Stephen Gallacher, who narrowly missed out on supplanting Graeme McDowell in the ninth and final qualifying spot by finishing third on Sunday at the Italian Open.
As it stands there are no home players in the European team as the competition returns to Scotland for the first time since Muirfield in 1973.
McGinley, who played and missed the cut in Turin, was on hand to see how hard Gallacher battled to make the team and he was full of praise for the 39-year-old who lives just 35 miles from Gleneagles and knows the course better than anyone else among the Ryder Cup hopefuls.
Watson, an eight-time major winner brought back in as skipper to revive US fortunes, has found his task of naming three picks made much easier since Tiger Woods announced he would not be available due to continuing problems with his injured back. Given the fact that there are already three rookies – Jimmy Walker, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed – already assured of being in the team, Watson is likely to look for some experienced hands.
Hunter Mahan's recent return to form makes him an odds-on bet to get the nod, whilst Brandt Snedeker is expected tro join him. The third choice is more open-ended with several names in the mix from former PGA Champion Keegan Bradley, former US Open champion Webb Simpson and in-form Ryan Moore, who was 11th on the points list and just missed an automatic selection.
The task for Watson is huge with the Americans desperate for success having won just once in the last six meetings. Two years ago at Medinah outside Chicago, the US team carried a 10-6 lead into the 12 singles that comprise the final day only for Europe to stage the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history to record an astounding 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 victory.
Here are the European and US teams for the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles, Scotland from September 26-28.
There will be three wildcards added on Tuesday by captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson:
EUROPE UNITED STATES
Rory McIlroy (NIR) Bubba Watson
Henrik Stenson (SWE) Rickie Fowler
Victor Dubuisson (FRA) Jim Furyk
Jamie Donaldson (WAL) Jimmy Walker
Sergio Garcia (ESP) Phil Mickelson
Thomas Bjorn (DEN) Matt Kuchar
Justin Rose (ENG) Jordan Spieth
Martin Kaymer (GER) Patrick Reed
Graeme McDowell (NIR) Zach Johnson