Ryder Cup: Fourballs will give rookie Stephen Gallacher a chance

Bernard Gallacher and Harry Bannerman, right, at Bathgate Golf Club
Bernard Gallacher and Harry Bannerman, right, at Bathgate Golf Club
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Bernard Gallacher won’t be surprised to see his nephew Stephen involved in the opening session in this week’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

In his three matches as captain, Bernard admitted it was difficult throwing rookies in at the deep end due to the opening session being foursomes.

But, since the 1997 match in Spain, it’s been fourballs when the event has been played on this side of the Atlantic and Bernard believes that will increase Stephen’s chances of being involved straight away on Friday.

“All the players will be anxious about their partnerships, especially as they wait to find out if they’ll be involved in the opening fourballs session,” Bernard told the Evening News.

“I’m surprised it’s fourballs and not foursomes because we normally do better in foursomes, but it was Seve who changed that at Valderrama and, in fairness, we have won six of the eight matches since then.

“The other side of that coin, I suppose, is that there is a good chance some of the rookies, Stephen included, of course, will get to play on the opening morning.

“I think it will depend on the practice, which is very important. Paul McGinley will be matching up some of the rookies with the more experienced players in the team and see how they respond to being with them.

“You need to have a skeleton plan, having prepared that by talking to players and finding out who’d they like to play with and not like to play with even.

“You’ve got to keep an open-mind in a Ryder Cup, though, and Paul will know that. I’d expect to see different formations and different partnerships on the three practice days.”

Bernard was speaking at Bathgate Golf Club as he returned to his roots to take part in a match to mark its Ryder Cup heritage.

Eric Brown’s daughter, Colleen, was also there, as was Harry Bannerman, who was a rookie himself at Old Warson in St Louis in 1971.

“It is still nice to come back here,” admitted Bernard as he prepared to play the 17th hole with each of the groups in a Europe versus United States clash.

“Eric Brown started off the club’s Ryder Cup history by playing in the event and suddenly all the juniors, myself included, wanted to follow in his footsteps.

“Then, when I got in, Stephen’s era wanted to follow me and I’m sure it will be the same with the current crop of juniors here – they’ll watch Stephen playing at Gleneagles and want to be the next Ryder Cup player from Bathgate.

“It’s unusual for a small club to have three Ryder Cup players and what makes it even more remarkable is that it’s not a fancy American country club; it’s a working men’s club where golf is very popular.”

Bernard is heading to Gleneagles later in the week to be part of the Radio Five Live team but has not yet decided whether or not he should be commentating on any matches involving Stephen.

“I will need to sit down with the producer and make a decision about that,” he admitted. “I will probably need to speak to Stephen as well to see if he minds.

“I’m not sure that he needs the added distraction of looking up to see me standing there with the earphones on.”

Stephen was due to meet up with the rest of his team-mates in Perthshire today while Tom Watson and his American side were due to fly into Edinburgh airport this morning before making the journey up to Gleneagles.

“I’m not over confident we’ll win,” admitted Bernard when asked how he saw the event’s 40th staging panning out once the gun goes off. On paper, we look quite strong and the Americans, on the other hand, are missing Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner and Tiger Woods. I think Johnson is the big miss as he won maximum points for them the last time and is an extraordinary match-play player.

“Paul McGinley is right to say there can be no room for complacency as it is going to be a tough match, make no mistake.

“I think what might just swing it Europe’s way is that we are on a course where most of the players have played in the Johnnie Walker Championship.

“That was the deciding factor at Valderrama and Celtic Manor, too, I suppose.

“We only won by a point in those so I think I can safely say, ‘look out for a close contest’.”