Gallacher steps up bid to impress for Ryder Cup

Stephen Gallacher was part of the European team that defeated the US at Gleneagles last year. Pic: Jane Barlow

Stephen Gallacher was part of the European team that defeated the US at Gleneagles last year. Pic: Jane Barlow

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Stephen Gallacher believes he’ll have three bites at the cherry in his bid to make Darren Clarke’s team for next year’s Ryder Cup.

Ulsterman Clarke was appointed last week as Europe’s captain for the encounter at Hazeltine, where his opposite number will be Davis Love III.

Having had his appetite for the biennial bunfight whetted through being on the triumphant team at Gleneagles last September, the Minnesota match is firmly in Gallacher’s sights.

The 40-year-old makes his first PGA Tour appearance of the season today when he lines up in the Honda Classic, which has world No.1 Rory McIlroy spearheading the field.

But, as he prepared to tee off at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, Gallacher admitted his entire 2015 campaign has been planned with the next Ryder Cup in mind.

And, when the gun goes off at the start of the qualifying campaign at the end of August, he is determined to be ready to make the most of three avenues that all have Hazeltine on their signposts.

“I’ve set my stall out,” said the Bathgate man of deciding to keep his schedule light in the opening half of the season, hence the Honda Classic then next week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship being the only events he’s planning to play between now and The Masters in early April.

“The run at the end of the year is a killer and you need to be ready for that as it could make or break your Ryder Cup. That’s the way I’m looking at it.

“In my eyes, there are three chances to get into that and one of them is the ‘Final Series’ at the end of the year.

“That’s basically how Thomas Bjorn, Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson all got in the team last time. Thomas won Sun City, Victor won in Turkey and Jamie finished second in that event then the WGC at Doral a few months later.

“The second chance is the full qualifying campaign then you’ve got the majors and WGCs. Out of that, you need to win a couple of times.

“The points start just after the US PGA (at Whistling Straits in the second week of August). I’ll have a week off after it then go to the Czech Republic as I like that tournament.

“I’ve been consistent for two and a bit years and I’m only a win away from getting into the top 10 in the world. The next step for me is to play less but play better. I want to be competing in the majors.”

Gallacher has known Clarke, the 2011 Open champion, since they were coached at the same time by the late Bob Torrance.

“Darren was a long hitter even then,” recalled the world No.32. “He was always a great ball-striker and I remember playing with him and Sam a few times.

“I think Clarkey will be a great captain. Look at the tournaments he’s won – big ones. A major, WGCs. He’s played in five and been vice captain a couple of times, too – he’s the perfect man for it.

“I think he will be very meticulous – he’s that kind of person. I think he’ll put own mark on it and will challenge us all as much as Paul [McGinley] did. He is very well liked in America and is very friendly with Davis Love. I think it is a great captaincy to take on as there’s a great template and a great feeling in the European camp.”

McGinley, of course, is largely responsible for that after he did such a great job at Gleneagles – but he has declared that he won’t be a vice captain to Clarke or any future European skipper.

“I think it’s right that Paul is letting someone have their turn and try to put their own mark on the job,” observed Gallacher. “I think you’ll find Clarkey is his own man but I also think he’ll have experience in there.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he brought in someone like Ian Woosnam, his captain at The K Club in 2006. You need five guys as Paul showed that you need someone to look after those not playing.

“I think Miguel [Angel Jimenez] and Thomas [Bjorn] will be on the backroom team. I also think [Jose Maria] Olazabal will be on it. He’ll wait and see what happens with Lee Westwood, though he’ll obviously be aiming to make the team as a player again.”