Europe's Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley has picked his three wildcards for next month's event at Gleneagles.
Stephen Gallacher, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood were the lucky trio to join the nine players that had automatically qualified via the World points list. Luke Donald and Francesco Molinari were in contention for a wildcard spot but unfortunately missed out.
Donald's impressive record
England's former world number one Donald has played in four of the last five Ryder Cup events and was part of the Europe team that produced a miraculous comeback over the United States at Medinah in 2012.
His record of 10.5 points from a possible 15 since his Cup debut in 2004 is impressive, but he has struggled for form recently and has finished in the top 35 just once in the past nine tournaments.
McGinley admits that leaving Donald out was a difficult decision considering the close relationship between them and his previous Ryder Cup record.
"It was a very difficult conversation with him for a number of reasons," he said.
"My relationship with Luke is very close. He has played in every Ryder Cup I've been involved in apart from 2008, which we both missed.
"I've partnered Luke twice, in 2004 and 2006, and vice-captained him in 2010 and 2012. I forged a very strong relationship with him.
"His Ryder Cup record is outstanding and he will no doubt go on to make many more appearances in the Ryder Cup. It was a difficult call but one I had to do in the interests of the European team."
Gallacher had missed out on a guaranteed place by just one stroke at the Italian Open when he needed a top-two finish but agonisingly finished third. But his showing was enough to catch the attention of McGinley after completing the back nine on Friday in just 30 shots.
The Scot received the call from McGinley on Monday and expressed his delight at being able to compete in the event in his home country.
“The pressure went off my shoulders. It was something to be part of and I’m delighted to have got that call,” he told Sky Sports, adding that McGinley had given him some inspiring words ahead of the Italian Open.
“Paul has been great to me all along, giving me advice. He just said ‘go and qualify for me – if not, you’ve done great anyway,’” he said.
“And then all he said was ‘you’re going to have a long day on Monday but I’ll phone you to let you know one way or the other’. He was right – it was a very long day on Monday.
“That back nine was huge for me, knowing that when I needed to produce the goods I could.”
Gallacher was born just half an hour away from the Gleneagles course and has a great record there. The nephew of former Europe captain Bernard Gallacher will be the only Scot in the team and can't wait for it to start and admits he will be asking his uncle for advice.
"I can’t wait to get going. Making my debut, there is nowhere I’d rather be going than Gleneagles. It’s a course I really enjoy, I like it. I just can’t wait to get up there.
“I’ll obviously be speaking to my uncle quite a bit, to get advice. Paul Lawrie is a good friend of mine as well. He has experience of it. Anyone who wants to give me advice, I’ll take it on board,” he said.
“It’s a pressure-cooker situation anyway. I’ve played a Walker Cup – I know it’s not the same stature - but team events are something I enjoy. I’ll play my own game and see how it goes.
“It’s exciting – it’s something I’ve wanted to play in all my life. The Ryder Cup has been a big part of my family. From a young kid it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Westwood currently lies outside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup ranking but having competed in eight Ryder Cups in his career, McGinley felt he had the necessary experience to be selected as one of his captain's picks. He carded a superb round of 63 at the Bridgestone Invitational last month and finished tied 15th at the PGA Championship recently.
He admits that his recent good form is to thank for his selection.
"When Paul rang with good news, I breathed a sigh of relief," he said.
"I have played a lot better in the last month and a half. Paul asked us to show some form, and I think I did that in the final round of the Bridgestone and by leading the PGA Championship the following week."
Poulter also hasn't had the greatest season and hasn't had a top-10 finish since June when he finished sixth at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis. However, he was a star performer in the 2012 triumph and has a fantastic Ryder Cup record.
The 38-year old feels that the Ryder Cup will bring the best out of him once again and can't wait for it to start on September 26.
"I'm very proud to be a pick and I just can't wait to get there. The Ryder Cup means a lot to me and I guarantee I'll be ready to perform to my best," he said.
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