LONDON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley faces a tricky wildcard selection dilemma following Stephen Gallacher’s brilliant final round in the Italian Open on Sunday.
Gallacher carded a sparkling 65 to finish third in Turin, one place short of securing the ninth and final automatic qualifying spot for this month’s match against the United States.
But the manner of his performance and the fact he is Scottish and lives near the Gleneagles course which is hosting the Ryder Cup give him a strong chance of earning McGinley’s nod.
McGinley looks certain to select Europe’s Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter, the inspiration for the team’s astonishing comeback win in the last contest in Medinah, and his fellow Englishman Lee Westwood, a former world number one and a veteran of eight matches against the U.S.
But Luke Donald, another former world number one, has struggled this year and McGinley may be sorely tempted to give Gallacher his chance.
“This was a terrific performance by Stephen. The gun was to his head but he performed very strongly,” McGinley told reporters.
“All credit to him. It’s unfortunate he’s come up one shot short of being an automatic in the team. But his performance this week will be very strongly in his favour when it comes to making the picks.”
Donald is an outstanding foursomes player and has been on the winning team in each of his four Ryder Cups but he has finished in the top 35 only once in his last eight tournaments.
Although Westwood has also been in mediocre form, his record in major tournaments has been respectable with a seventh-place finish in the U.S. Masters and a tie for 15th at last month’s PGA.
Gallacher just failed to climb above Graeme McDowell in the qualifying positions and McGinley will be delighted to have the former U.S. Open champion from Northern Ireland in his team.
McDowell holed a memorable putt in the victory at Celtic Manor four years ago and forms a formidable partnership with his compatriot and world number one Rory McIlroy.
With British Open and U.S. PGA champion McIlroy in the form of his life and U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer also in his side, McGinley has an abundance of riches to work with as he plots to take on the Americans led by captain Tom Watson.
Renowned for his meticulous preparation, McGinley knows he has to make a calculated decision which will be announced on Tuesday.
“There is a lot of emotion round here at the moment but let’s put a little bit of cold water on it,” he said.
“There’s a lot of stats to be looked at and in the cold light of day I’ll sit down with the vice-captains and we’ll assess everything and come up with three picks that are going to add to what is already an incredibly strong nine players.” (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)