European captain Paul McGinley revealed Lee Westwood had “slightly pipped” Luke Donald to a Ryder Cup wild card after completing his team for Gleneagles today.
McGinley selected Stephen Gallacher, Ian Poulter and Westwood for the biennial contest against the United States from September 26-28, with Donald missing out despite his superb record in team golf.
The former world number one achieved a 7-1 record in two Walker Cup wins and has claimed 10 and a half points from 15 matches in four previous Ryder Cup appearances, all of which ended in a European victory.
The 36-year-old also partnered Paul Casey to World Cup glory in 2004 but has paid the price for an indifferent season, recording just one top 10 on the European Tour in 2014.
“It came down to form between the two players and Lee just slightly pipped him,” McGinley said. “It was a very, very difficult conversation.
“My relationship with Luke is very close. His first match in the Ryder Cup I was his partner (a half against Chris Riley and Stewart Cink in 2004).
“It will be strange to be in a Ryder Cup environment without Luke. His record is absolutely outstanding.
“He’s a player that will no doubt go on to make many more appearances in the Ryder Cup and it was a very, very difficult call that I had to make, but one that I had to do in the interests of the European team.
“He was very, very disappointed and rightly so. He is a former world number one whose record stands up with anyone in the game.
“He said ‘I publicly backed you to be the captain and even though you have not picked me I believe you will be a great captain. His last two words were ‘Go Europe.’”
Westwood admitted he breathed a sigh of relief after getting the call on Monday night from McGinley, who telephoned everyone on the world points list down to the Englishman in 16th place.
That meant telling Miguel Angel Jimenez, Francesco Molinari and Joost Luiten they had not been selected.
“I am obviously delighted, the Ryder Cup has always been a massive thing in my career,” said Westwood, who has made eight consecutive appearances but suffered a slump in form mid-season after winning the Malaysian Open in April.
“I have played a lot better the last month. Paul asked me to show some form and I think I did so, especially in the final round at Bridgestone (a 63) and then leading after the first round of the US PGA as well.
“I think Paul has picked me for my experience. I have played under eight different captains and pretty much seen all it can throw at you.”
Gallacher came agonisingly close to securing an automatic place on the team by finishing third in the Italian Open on Sunday, just one shot out of the share of second place he required.
However, McGinley stayed on in Turin after missing the cut and witnessed the Scot card a flawless closing 65 to record his 10th top-10 finish of a qualifying campaign which also saw him retain his Dubai Desert Classic title in February.
“I think his performance last week in Italy, under the spotlight, was huge,” McGinley said. “He’ll look back at that at the end of his career, whatever he goes on to achieve, as one of the highlights of his career, if not the highlight.
“I’m very proud for him being Scottish. I’m lucky in that I’ve played a Ryder Cup in my home country so I know what it’s going to feel like for Stevie and how proud he’s going to be.”
Gallacher, whose uncle Bernard played in the contest eight times and captained Europe on three occasions, said: “It’s massive for me and my family. It’s been a goal of mine all my days to get in.
“My emotions on Sunday were mixed. I was delighted with the way I played and disappointed to not qualify.
“I was up against a lot of good players for the picks and did not really have a clue what was going to happen. It was a long day yesterday but it was all worth it in the end.”
Poulter has earned the nickname ‘Mr Ryder Cup’ and with some justification. This is the third time he has needed a wild card to make the team, but he has raised his game on every occasion and none more so than at Medinah in 2012.
The 38-year-old won all four of his matches and famously birdied the last five holes alongside Rory McIlroy to beat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson in the Saturday fourballs. He also beat Webb Simpson in the singles to take his record to an amazing 12 wins from 15 matches.
“I was absolutely thrilled to get the call from Paul and I can’t wait to get to Gleneagles,” Poulter said. “The Ryder Cup means a lot to me and I guarantee I will be ready to give it my best.”
Speaking after the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston on Monday, Donald revealed he had spoken to McGinley after missing the cut in the previous FedEx Cup play-off event.
“I told him I felt like my game was pretty close,” Donald told reporters. “It seems like I have been in a bit of a mental rut and not been able to get any momentum going on the golf course... but I feel like the game isn’t far away.
“Hopefully (McGinley) looks a little past form. It’s not a nice feeling to wait it out. If you don’t make it automatically you only have yourself to blame. I wouldn’t hold it against Lee and wouldn’t hold it against captain McGinley (if I didn’t get picked).”
Donald’s agent was not available for comment on Tuesday but former captain Nick Faldo, whose side suffered Europe’s only defeat this century at Valhalla in 2008, wrote on Twitter: “If Lee and Luke were a tied pick for me, I would have picked Luke. Fab short game under pressure in probably rough weather!”