Relieved Graeme McDowell gets final spot in Ryder Cup selection
Graeme McDowell was a very relieved man to clinch the final automatic spot on Paul McGinley's Ryder Cup team – but he said his heart went out to Stephen Gallacher, the man he pipped to the final place.
Gallacher, son of former European skipper Bernard, needed a top two finish at the Italian Open to edge out the Ulsterman, but could only manage third behind Hennie Otto and David Howell yesterday after a battling final round 67, which was one shot too many.
"I really wished Stevie well all week," said McDowell.
"You certainly would not have begrudged him a place in the team if he'd got the top two finish he needed to go past me in the standings.
"He made a brilliant effort to grab the last place and came up only a fraction short."
The automatic European Ryder Cup places are therefore bookended by Ulster players with world number one Rory McIlroy unsurprisingly qualifying in top spot after his two Major wins this summer.
They are joined by Swede Henrik Stenson, Frenchman Victo Dubuisson, Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Spain's Sergio Garcia, Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, England's justin Rose and German Martin Kaymer.
McGinley has yet to add his three wildcard picks, so there may be a way back into the team yet for Gallacher.
Had McDowell been deprived of his automatic place, it was hard to see McGinley overlooking him with his three picks which he will confirm tomorrow.
The favourites to get the nod are Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, although the two Molinari brothers Eduardo and Francesco could be outside bets along with Gallacher.
McDowell confessed that golf and the Ryder Cup had not been his main priority over the last week, after he became a father last Monday.
"There's a switch inside me that's flicked and I know things have changed forever," he said.
"My mind has been 99 per cent on the new mum and baby and nappies. We have called our daughter Vale Esme and emotionally it's still sinking in.
"There was that one per cent which led me to flicking on the European Tour app every now and again to see how Stephen was getting on in Italy. Given the way he's played throughout this year and because of the type of player that he is, he would have thoroughly deserved it.
"If I were Paul McGinley, I'd be thinking long and hard about putting him on the team. I think he would bring a lot to the dynamic of the side."
Whether or not McGinley decides to resurrect McDowell's partnership with McIlroy at Gleneagles remains to be seen and their relationship has been strained over the world number one's legal wrangle with former agents Horizon Sports.
Now that McDowell has also parted company with the Dublin-based outfit, that pressure may have eased.
Gallacher targets a Ryder Cup wild card
David Howell helped deny his good friend Stephen Gallacher an automatic Ryder Cup place, but believes it would be a "travesty" if the Scot is not handed a wild card from European captain Paul McGinley.
Gallacher needed to win the Italian Open or finish joint second with just one other player to dislodge Graeme McDowell from the team for Gleneagles.
But despite carding a flawless closing 65 at Circolo Golf Torino, the 39-year-old finished in third place on 17 under, just one shot behind Howell – who fired a superb 63 – in second and three behind South African winner Hennie Otto.
After the year-long qualifying battle, Gallacher finished just 1.61 points behind McDowell, who posted a picture of his new-born daughter on Twitter with the message: "Watched the last few holes of the coverage. If Stevie G had passed me, I was keeping it all in perspective!! #blessed".
Gallacher must hope he has done enough to earn one of McGinley's three wild cards, which will be announced at Wentworth on Tuesday. He lives just 35 miles from Gleneagles and has recorded seven top-10 finishes there in his last 12 appearances.
"It was a tall order but I am proud of myself," Gallacher said. "I'm delighted with 17 under, it's just a little short but there is nothing I can do.
"I wanted to qualify myself just to take away someone else's opinion. There are four or five guys who are worthy (of a wild card) so it's just what Paul sees.
"At the end of the day I haven't done enough. We all had the chance at the start of the year and there are nine guys in the team at the moment who have qualified. There are three picks to come and I just hope that I have done enough to get one.
"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 he sees."