Rookie clinches wild-card pick for Ryder Cup

European captain McGinley chooses 'Stevie' Gallacher, Poulter and Westwood to join line-up set to defend trophy against the United States at Gleneagles

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2014, 12:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2014, 12:05am

European captain Paul McGinley chose Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Stephen Gallacher as his wild-card selections on Tuesday for the Ryder Cup, with Luke Donald the high-profile name to miss out.

Donald, a former No 1, has been on the winning side on each of his four appearances for Europe, 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.

Stevie's first words to me when I told him he was in the team were, 'That's brilliant wee man'
European captain Paul McGinley on Stevie Gallacher

Gallacher will be one of three rookies in the 12-man European team that will face the United States at Gleneagles, Scotland, from September 26-28, along with Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson.

"Stevie's first words to me when I told him he was in the team were, 'That's brilliant wee man'," McGinley told a news conference at Wentworth on the outskirts of London.

"Of course, there's always a concern that he's a rookie, but I'm not afraid to pick a rookie if he's good enough and there's no doubt Stevie earned his place in this team."

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 141/2-131/2 win over the US at Medinah in 2012.

Gallacher, 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 56km from Gleneagles and has played well on the course in recent years, losing out in a three-man play-off at the Johnnie Walker Championship in 2013.

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 have not 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.

Westwood will be playing in his ninth straight Ryder Cup, with his accuracy from tee to green likely counting in his favour.

He has played well below his best for much of 2014, but won the Malaysian Open in April.

The Englishman 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, 2006, 2010 and 2012.

His second place showing at the RBC Heritage in April was his last top-30 finish on the PGA Tour, and he is not close to regaining the form that took him to number one and made him the money-winner on both sides of the Atlantic in 2011.

"That was a very difficult conversation," McGinley said. "My relationship with him is very close."