Ryder Cup: Gallacher to get chance to recover

Stephen Gallacher lost out in the fourballs yesterday. Pic: Jane Barlow

Stephen Gallacher lost out in the fourballs yesterday. Pic: Jane Barlow

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Paul McGinley was hoping to allow Stephen Gallacher to get a disappointing Ryder Cup debut out of his system before tomorrow’s singles at Gleneagles.

The Lothians star saw his dream first appearance in the event on home soil turn into an anti-climax as Europe ended the first day in the event’s 40th staging with a 5-3 lead.

His partnership with Ian Poulter in the opening fourballs failed to ignite as they were cuffed 5&4 by American rookies Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth.

It led both the Europeans to be left out of yesterday’s foursomes, with Gallacher also being omitted from the second fourballs session this morning.

But, as he reflected on a satisfactory day overall for his side, McGinley admitted he was keen to get the 39-year-old out in the event’s penultimate session.

“I would like to get him out tomorrow afternoon, yeah, and he’ll be practising tomorrow like all the guys with a view to that,” said the European captain. “He had a disappointing day today, obviously. It just didn’t flow between him and Poulter, but that can happen sometimes.

“I’m fortunate that I have two senior figures on the team that would be great for the rookies in Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood.

“I was struggling for a third and Ian Poulter was chosen for a role that he didn’t really think he was going to be chosen for.

“The more I talked to him, the more he was up for it, but it’s a very difficult role to perform and I’ve given him a very different role tomorrow.”

That was reference to Poulter being sent out with Rory McIlroy – a winning pairing in the same format on the Saturday in the “Miracle at Medinah” two years ago.

“Ian Poulter’s heart is very big and that was a real body blow for him to lose a match heavily in a Ryder Cup,” added McGinley.

“I want to bring him back up again and I know he’ll respond to having the world’s best player on his shoulder.”

Gallacher, who’d been brilliant in practice, simply had one of those days that every player has now and again.

That it happened after he’d received one of the great Ryder Cup receptions on the first tee was unfortunate, both for him and the thousands of fans hoping he’d start his Ryder Cup career with a win.

“It was a special reception on the first tee, something that I will definitely remember for the rest of my life,” he said. “Just a pity about the result, really.”

The Dubai Desert Classic champion pushed his opening drive into a bunker then found marshland on the right of the green, picking up after taking a penalty drop from there and hitting his fourth through the green.

“I didn’t feel under any pressure at all, really,” insisted the Bathgate man. “I was a bit out of rhythm and it took me maybe five or six holes to get into it.

“Then when I did start to play well, I didn’t capitalise on it by holing the putts.”

In contrast, Spieth and, in particular, Reed knocked in their fair share. “They dovetailed very well and when one was out, one was in,” noted Gallacher. “That’s tough to beat.”

The Scot mustered just one birdie – at the second – while Poulter had a rare barren round in the event that normally makes him superhuman.

“That wasn’t obviously what we were looking for,” admitted the Englishman. “We were hoping to get off to a fast start, but that didn’t happen and we couldn’t seem to get anything going.

“But I said to Steve walking off the course that when I played with Darren Clarke in 2004, we had our butts kicked [losing 4&3 to Tiger Woods and Chris Riley] the first time I ever played.

“We’ve obviously had that today, but things can change very quickly and we have to keep our heads up right now. It didn’t work for us today, but we have to look forward to the matches we’re going to play ahead.”

After losing the first session 2.5-1.5, McGinley was delighted to see his side bounce back by taking the foursomes 3.5-0.5 – a record for Europe in the alternate-shot format.

“It was a great response and momentum can be a huge and key factor,” he said. “It shows a huge amount of character that we have on the team, huge amount of talent that we can go out with such strong pairings 
in the afternoon and a great resilience.”

He singled out Westwood for praise after the former world No.1 had immediately repaid his wildcard selection by sparking the fightback along with rookie Jamie Donaldson, the pair beating Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar by two holes in the first of the afternoon tussles. “Lee was immense, absolutely immense,” said the captain.

“It was important not to over-react to the morning session, but to lead out with Lee in the afternoon was huge and Jamie was very appreciative of having him on his shoulder.”

American captain Tom Watson admitted his side had wasted their bright start by hitting too many bad shots and missing too many short putts in the afternoon. “It started off pretty good and then we didn’t perform in the afternoon – it’s very disappointing and the players themselves are disappointed,” he said.

His decision to leave Spieth and Reed out of the foursomes came under intense scrutiny by the American media at Gleneagles.

“I thought at the time it was the best decision not to play them,” he said. “There were a variety of reasons, but I won’t go into those. It was a decision that my vice-captains and I made.

“I’m trying to make the best decisions at that time that I possibly can with the best information I have. It’s a collective decision, but the final decision is with me.

“That decision not to play them was a hard one, but my gut feeling said that was the right decision to make.”