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Almost the last roll of the dice - Ryder Cup 2014

September 1, 2014 by Stuart Barber

Veni, Vidi, Vici, - Well almost but not quite, Stephen Gallacher almost served up the Château Lafite in Turin. Shooting a brilliant last round of 65 to finish on 17 under par, normally good enough to win or at least take second place it failed by one shot. Englishman David Howell came through the field with a 63 to take the second place Stephen Gallacher so desperately wanted, and bravely fought for, to displace Graeme McDowell from the 9 th automatic selection spot.

So as James Corrigan writing in the Telegraph “this was Gallacher's seventh top 10 in his last 12 starts, which is an extraordinary run considering the pressure he put himself under to advance to his “home” Ryder Cup and a biennial dust-up which, with his Uncle Bernard captaining three times, has always meant so much to his family. Believe it, McGinley would be the golfing equivalent of the man who shot Bambi if he snubbed the local hero, particularly after the events at Circolo Golf Turin.”

The words of America's Captain Tom Watson seem very appropriate “ 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.” No doubt about it, Stephen Gallacher fits that bill down to the T(ee).

In Florida as Graeme McDowell, not playing this week as his wife gave birth to their daughter, tweeted with a picture of his newborn daughter attached: “Am watching and if Stevie G passes me, am keeping it all in perspective!”

So there are now four men from whom McGinley can pick only three: Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Stephen Gallacher. The whisper on the street is that Luke Donald may well draw the short straw, his form is not “on a hot streak” at present. He just made the second cut in Boston at the Deutsche Bank Championship by one shot, so I suppose the final round today will help our Captain make up his mind, if he has not already done so!

A great performer, who has been on the winning team on each of his four appearances in the Ryder Cup, but Donald has recorded only one top-35 in eight tournaments today. He's got his work cut out standing at +4 for the tournament, with a third round 74, including 4 bogies and an ugly 6 on the 18th . Ian Poulter stands at 2 under with a 71 that dropped him fourteen places. His pugnacious match play, love of the Ryder Cup and all it stands for, virtually assures him of the Captain's pick. So today's final round may help clarify the Captain's mind. Meanwhile their fellow Englishman Lee Westwood failed to qualify for this second FedEx play-off event, so cannot further influence the mind set.

After his final round in Turin Stephen Gallacher said “It was a tall order but I am proud of myself the way I have played,” adding. “Now it comes down to someone else's opinion and I wanted to qualify myself just to take that away.

“There are four or five guys that are worthy [of a wild card] so it's just what Paul sees. I was still trying to win the tournament as well and it was strange knowing that second could do it, but I gave it my best shot and I hope Paul likes what I've done.”

McGinley, who remained in Turin to witness the climax after missing the cut on Friday, did not rein back on his praise, but was careful not to commit, with the FedEx Cup event not concluding until this evening.

“This was a terrific performance by Stephen,” McGinley said. “The gun was to his head but he performed very strongly. All credit to him. It's unfortunate he's come up one shot short of being an automatic in the team.

“His performance this week will very strongly be in his favour when it comes to making the picks but there is a lot of emotion around here at the moment, let's put a little bit of cold water on it.”

Behind the scenes James Corrigan writing in the Telegraph “McGinley has worked with Chris Sells and John Franks at strokeaverage.com for some time, and through their association with Ernst & Young, who are one of the main Ryder Cup sponsors, the statisticians have been hard at the spreadsheets for months on behalf of the Europe captain. The result is that McGinley will know things about the games of Messrs Poulter and Co that they are not even aware of themselves. It will go on this way as Franks and Sell will be with him in match week.”

“We have been providing Paul with feedback on how the players are performing during the qualification process,” Franks said. “We work hard to analyse data behind the scenes and then provide him with clear, relevant information. This enables Paul to use evidence as part of his considerations rather than relying purely on instincts.”

So much for Europe where it would seem that the pick will come from three out of four, although there are some other wild card contenders – Molinari, Jimenez, even Bernhard Langer has been mooted but I think these are not serious contenders for the Captain's nod.

Tom Watson, the US captain, will also name his three picks on Tuesday and Keegan Bradley underlined his credentials with a 65 to take the clubhouse lead, one clear of the Australian Jason Day and another US wild-card hopeful, Webb Simpson. Bradley revealed the angst he was feeling. “I am aware every second of the day that I'm being watched by Tom”, Bradley said. “It's always on my mind - when I eat, when I sleep...”

So tomorrow it is. Each Captain will reveal his choice of the final three. – Watch this space.

Last evening I was amused to read this tweet from the Tournament Director of Deutsche Bank “ We have the Match Play champion leading, the Open Championship and PGA winner 2 back, and the US Open and Players champion 3 back. Not bad.”

Over in Boston, Rory McIlroy, Europe's clear number one, shot a sparkling 64 to lie just 2 shots behind the leader Russell Henry.

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