LOTHIANS star Stephen Gallacher today gave Paul McGinley’s appointment as the 2014 Ryder Cup captain a massive thumbs-up.
“It was his time,” insisted the 38-year-old, after McGinley was selected for the post at Gleneagles in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi last night.
Three Scots – Colin Montgomerie, Sandy Lyle and Paul Lawrie – as well as Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez were also considered by the European Tour’s tournament committee during an hour-long discussion, but McGinley, 46, a winner five times in the Ryder Cup as a player and vice-captain, was the “unanimous” choice of chairman Thomas Bjorn and his fellow decision-makers.
“Paul is very well-liked amongst his peers and he’s a good friend of mine,” added Gallacher of the man who will lock horns with five-time Open champion Tom Watson in Perthshire.
“He’ll be very thorough and will leave no stone unturned.”
Player power played its part in McGinley’s appointment, with world No.1 Rory McIlroy leading the campaign for the Dubliner to get the job.
Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Justin Rose also supported McGinley ahead of the eagerly -anticipated decision being made.
“Paul gets on well with Rory and Poults and that was a big factor,” observed Gallacher.
This week’s HSBC Abu Dhabi Championships sees the Bathgate man make his first appearance since undergoing knee surgery at the end of November.
He went under the knife straight after the season-ending Tour Championship in Dubai and has been delighted with his recovery.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into it,” the former Dunhill Links champion told the Evening News.
“I’m 100 per cent fit and the knee is feeling brilliant – I don’t feel anything troubling me any more.
“I was able to start hitting some balls again two-and-half-weeks or so after the operation, but, at the same time, I made sure that I wasn’t overdoing things.
“I didn’t have to rush things so I was able to do things properly and that’s allowed me to come here feeling ready and raring to go again.”
Gallacher starts his new campaign just outside the world’s top 100, but has his sights set on a rapid rise into the leading 64.
That would get him into next month’s WGC World Match event in Arizona and, with two more big events to follow in the Middle East to come after this one, he believes it’s a goal he can achieve.
“When you are round about the top 100, as I am, you just need one good week to make all the difference,” he added. “Just look at what happened with Scott Jamieson last week (jumping from 100th to 72nd).
“I’ve got three weeks to climb 30 odd places and get into the WGC Match Play – that’s the first goal for the year. It’s not impossible.
“I just want to carry on where I left off last year after having four top tens in my last eight events. If I can keep that consistency up, I should do okay.
“My game is pretty good at the moment, albeit a bit rusty, and I am excited about this year.”
The field, which is headed by Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, the world’s top two, includes 12 Scots, with Gallacher predicting a tough test over the next four days.
“I’ve played the course the last two days in a crosswind and it’s tough,” admitted the 38-year-old, who will have former Scottish Open champion Edoardo Molinari for company on the first two days.
“The fairways are narrow and the rough is thick, so you’ve got to be in control of your ball flight, or you’ll be struggling.
“It’s a tough start to the year, but I like the three tournaments in the desert. It’s a great run of events, and the fact you’ve got the world No 1 and No 2 here shows that you are playing in a proper tournament.”
Justin Rose, the world No. 5, is also in the star-studded field and he’s already looking forward to being at Muirfield this summer for The Open.
Nine years ago, when the East Lothian course last staged the event, Rose catapulted himself into joint-third after a 68 as he enjoyed a huge stroke of luck with the weather.
He eventually finished just outside the top 20 as Ernie Els claimed the Claret Jug in a four-man play-off.
“I think Muirfield is one of the best links courses and one of the toughest – it is really demanding,” said Rose today.