VIRGINIA WATER, England – European captain Paul McGinley chose Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Stephen Gallacher as his wild-card selections Tuesday for the Ryder Cup – leaving former No. 1 Luke Donald off the team.
Donald has been on the winning side in each of his four Ryder Cup appearances but has struggled for form this year after making changes to his swing.
“He wasn’t expecting it – he was very disappointed,” McGinley said after announcing his picks at European Tour headquarters at Wentworth.
Gallacher will be one of three rookies in the 12-man European team that will face the United States at Gleneagles, Scotland, from Sept. 26-28, along with Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson.
The other players who qualified automatically for McGinley’s team were Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Thomas Bjorn and Graeme McDowell.
Europe will be defending the trophy after its 14 1/2-13 1/2 win over the U.S. at Medinah in 2012. U.S. captain Tom Watson will announce his picks later Tuesday.
Gallacher, a Scot, narrowly missed out on automatic selection after finishing third at the Italian Open on Sunday. A top-two finish would have seen him oust McDowell as the final qualifier.
But it was Gallacher’s eighth top-10 finish in 2014, leaving him as the form player of the four in contention. He lives only 35 miles (56 kms) from Gleneagles and has played well on the course in recent years, losing out in a three-man playoff at the Johnnie Walker Championship in 2013.
“His first words were: `That’s brilliant, wee man,’” McGinley said when asked what Gallacher’s reaction was to his selection. “Of course it’s a concern to me that he’s a rookie, and it’s very difficult to pick a rookie for a Ryder Cup. But I’ve said all along from day one, I’m not afraid to pick a rookie if he proves himself.
“And there’s no doubt Stevie Gallacher has proved himself and earned his spot on this team.”
Gallacher’s uncle, Bernard, captained Europe in the Ryder Cup in 1991, ’93 and ’95.
Poulter, Westwood and Donald have been stalwarts for Europe over the past decade, helping the team win five of the last six cups, but haven’t been in top form this year.
Poulter was unlikely to be left out as he usually saves his best performances for the Ryder Cup. He has 12 wins from 15 matches, and is on a seven-match winning streak – the last four coming at the “Miracle in Medinah” when Europe came from 10-6 down on the final day to retain the cup.
“Ian Poulter is a bundle of energy whenever you speak to him. You could feel the energy coming down the phone,” McGinley said.
Westwood will be playing in his ninth straight Ryder Cup, with his accuracy from tee to green likely counting in his favor. He has played well below his best for much of 2014 but won the Malaysian Open in April and responded to calls from McGinley to show some form by shooting a final-round 63 at the Bridgestone Invitational last month before finishing tied for 15th at the PGA Championship.
Donald has one of the best short games in the world and is a brilliant putter, making him a key player in Europe’s wins in 2004, `06, `10 and `12.
His second place showing at the RBC Heritage in April was his last top-30 finish on the PGA Tour, and he isn’t close to regaining the form that took him to No. 1 and made him the money-winner on both sides of the Atlantic in 2011.
“That was a very difficult conversation – my relationship with him is very close,” said McGinley, who was Donald’s partner for the Englishman’s first Ryder Cup match.
“He was very, very disappointed and rightly so. He is a former world No. 1, his record in the Ryder Cup stands with anybody in the game. He said, `You know, Paul, I publicly backed you to be the captain. Even though you haven’t picked me, I still believe you’ll be a great captain.’ His last two words were `Go Europe.’ That says a lot about him.”