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The Count-Down to the Ryder Cup 2014

August 30, 2014 by Stuart Barber

The final count-down is on and whilst the nine USA players in the team has been finalised it's all to play for amongst the Europeans. Though to be fair in terms of automatic selection it's really down to one man.

Turin, perhaps more famous as the home of Fiat and Martini & Rossi, sees the final chapter in the automatic selection of the European Ryder Cup team. Currently in the 9th spot is Graeme McDowell, but he's not playing, choosing instead to be at his wife's bedside as she awaits the birth of their first child. So Stephen Gallacher at the last chance saloon has the opportunity to gain automatic selection. If he comes in the top two in Turin then he will leapfrog Graeme McDowell into the last automatic berth and so present the Europe captain, Paul McGinley, with the a real poser before the announcement of his three picks on Tuesday at Wentworth.

James Corrigan writing in the Telegraph “ Ryder Cup captains want winners on their teams and even if Gallacher gained his entry to Gleneagles with a runner-up placing in Italy, he would have proved himself able to cope with the pressure.

The Ryder Cup means a lot to the players wherever it is staged, but to Gallacher, with his house less than 40 miles from Gleneagles, this ‘home' Ryder Cup would inevitably be more special. McGinley would be glad to have him; as, naturally, would the tartan-clad galleries.”

What if Gallacher doesn't make the top 2 in Turin, my guess is that McGinley would probably pass him by for the English trio of Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. In these circumstances, pragmatism would win the day over romance for McGinley.

With the US team looking decidedly vulnerable, McGinley will probably choose to play it safe and go for the tried and trusted. Yes, Poulter, Donald and Westwood have not been anywhere near their best form and some might justifiably argue that it is a bigger gamble to take out-of-nick players to the Ryder Cup than it would to take a player on top of his game such as Gallacher.

Yet there are precedents here and McGinley is a slave to the record book. Poulter, Donald and Westwood have all gone into previous Ryder Cups operating well below their considerable capabilities and all raised their game accordingly. Yet McGinley himself is the epitome of when the vplayer is in form go ahead and pick him – that's what happened to him.

After the first round of the Italian Open Francesco Molinari shot a 66 to take the lead, while Gallacher could only manage a par 72. So now there is a new twist to the scenario facing McGinley. What if Molinari were to win would he gain a Captain's pick? Probably unlikely now as Molinari can only shoot a level par in the second round and is on six under. Gallacher has an inspired round out in 35 he shoots 30 on the back nine with six birdies including 4 from holes 14 to 17 before paring the last to move to seven under. Now that's only five shots behind 2 nd placed Bernd Wiesberger of Austria who is on 12 under.

South African Hennie Otto scored 62 to take the lead at 15 under par at the half-way stage. So it's all to play for, and if Gallacher can continue his surge on the back nine, who knows, stranger things have happened!

While this drama is played out over the next two days, just consider the remarkable twists and turns for the team USA. First of all there was all the hype and column inches about Tiger Woods and whether Tom Watson would give him a Captain's pick. Finally after Watson pretty much said it was up to Tiger to decide if he was fit enough to play and if he said he was then he would!

Well one way or another common sense prevailed and Woods said he wouldn't have accepted an invitation and has called a halt to all golf until at least December and maybe longer. So what on earth was all the fuss about!

Reading the Golf Channel I was struck by a piece by Bruce Chamblee (Hardly Tiger's best friend) Pursuit of perfection leaves Tiger's swing in disarray “By his count there were at least 10 things that he didn't like, so he called Butch Harmon who agreed with Tiger's assessment and the two of them went to work.

Within a year, the swing that would go on to win four consecutive majors was his. He owned it. He wrote a book about it. What has happened in the last few years has defied all reason. Both his body and his swing have become so altered from that architecture, and he seems so orphaned from the intuition that led to that swing, that he is scarcely recognizable.”

Finally whether entirely his own decision or perhaps influenced by the advice showered upon him he's parted from Coach Sean Foley, more of that another time.

Enough of Tiger Woods he's not an option for this year's USA Ryder Cup Team so who is?

Nine are already confirmed but what of the picks – Watson's current blog has this to say –

The team is now set with our nine players. We've had some difficulties with injuries, which has been unprecedented, I think, with the number of people hurt, or in Tiger's case where he had to withdraw his name for consideration.

That is certainly of some concern, but it is what it is. We'll play with the players we've got. Those guys will be healthy and able to go five rounds if asked.

Lastly, I'm looking forward to these next few weeks as we approach Sept. 2, the day I'll fill out the team with the three Captain's Picks. I've laid down the gauntlet for those who want to be on the team: Play well and I'll give you a look. Don't play well and I won't.”

So there it is – Sunday night will see the 9 Europeans confirmed by right and September the 2 nd will be the date for each captain to announce his 3 picks – Twenty four days and counting so here's to the next time and more news.

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