Scotland’s Ryder Cup doesn’t make me feel like a rookie

Local hero: Stephen Gallacher is enjoying the Ryder Cup experience, and denies he will be under extra pressure
Local hero: Stephen Gallacher is enjoying the Ryder Cup experience, and denies he will be under extra pressure
0
Have your say

Stephen Gallacher’s message was loud and clear: I’m maybe a Ryder Cup rookie but I’m not a rookie to golf.

It’s taken 19 years as professional for the Lothians star to secure a place on the game’s greatest stage.

At 39, he’s the oldest of the six rookies – three on either team – taking part in the 40th Ryder Cup. Jordan Spieth, the youngest of the sextet at 21, is just eight years older than Gallacher’s own son, Jack.

But the man flying the flag for Scotland when the eyes of the sporting world turn on Perthshire tomorrow is banking on experience to make him shine for Europe.

“I’m maybe a rookie to the Ryder Cup, but I’m 39 years old and I’m not a rookie to golf,” declared Gallacher in his pre-event interview in the Media Centre at the Perthshire resort.

“I also think having it in my home country is making it a bit easier to adapt as a rookie. I know all the guys really well, as well. I’ve known Lee Westwood since my amateur days and the guys have made me feel really part of the team and welcome.”

As the sole Scot in the first Ryder Cup to be held in the home of golf since the 1973 match at Muirfield, Gallacher will have a nation behind him when the gun goes off.

But he dismissed a suggestion that the extra pressure from that could potentially have some downsides as he bids to help Europe hang on to the iconic gold trophy.

“I don’t think so,” he said to that. “I think every Scot would want to be here, as well. Where better to play at really than Gleneagles for your first one. If I could have picked it myself, I would have picked it here.”

That’s because his record on the PGA Centenary Course is phenomenal. Seven top tens in events there since 2001 include losing in a play-off in the Johnnie Walker Championship just over a year ago.

“To play in front of your home fans, you could say it’s like in football with the 12th man,” he added.

“I know the fans are going to be wanting Europe to win, but they are also going to be respectful.

“Hopefully they are going to help pull the Europeans through, maybe more so me as well, being at home and seeing a lot of friendly faces and family. I think that can only be a positive really.”

Wearing a purple sweater with a thistle knitted into the front of it, Gallacher spoke of how enjoyable his week had been so far since joining up with the rest of the team on Monday.

The nerves are sure to start building as the opening salvos draw nearer, but he’s adamant there won’t be extra pressure on him over the three days.

“I’ve got 11 other team-mates,” pointed out the double Dubai Desert Classic champion. “It’s a team game. It’s not about me.

“It’s about the 12 guys and for the captain and for the five vice-captains, for your family. It’s a massive thing. It’s not just down to me.”

A big football man, Gallacher enjoyed listening to Sir Alex Ferguson as the former Manchester United manager delivered a team talk on Tuesday night.

“I thought he was brilliant,” said the Bathgate man. “He spoke for half an hour and then we sort of asked him some questions. He was very candid and very open.

“There’s bits that I definitely would take away from it, not just as a team aspect, but for progression going forward.

“I kind of knew how confident a person he was, but to hear him talking, you can see why the players respected him so much and how he won 13 titles in 21 goes. You can see his sort of passion for the game and how much he loves football and how much he loves the strategy and the game. He misses it a bit, he said, but you know, an absolute legend in my eyes.”

Paul McGinley will become a legend in Scotland if he can orchestrate Europe’s eighth victory in the ten Ryder Cups.

“Paul’s been brilliant,” replied Gallacher to being asked how he felt the Irishman was handling the huge responsibility of going head-to-head with five-times Open champion Tom Watson.

“He’s been very thorough. He’s very articulate, good at speaking, left no stone unturned. I’ve never heard any negative words from anybody.”

And the overall mood in the home camp?

“Everybody is upbeat and positive,” he added. “Everybody is having fun, and that’s what he’s wanting to instil.

“‘These are the happiest days of your life’ is the quote he’s got put up from Bob Torrance and it’s true.”

Gallacher played with Ian Poulter and Justin Rose in his first practice round before being sent out with Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood yesterday.

If he’s picked for the opening fourballs – and there’s a fair chance he will as McGinley wants this to be the “noisiest-ever Ryder Cup” – it could be with any of them.

“He has spoken to me,” said Gallacher to being asked if McGinley had told him what he was looking for from the home man this week.

“But I cannot tell you what he said. He spoke to everyone, and that’s his management skills, if you so like.

“He’s passing on what he thinks, telling you what he thinks and what he’s expecting, and that’s basically it, really.”

When he does step on to the first tee, the local hero is determined to come out with all guns blazing after listening intently to the advice given to him by his uncle Bernard, a Ryder Cup legend.

“The hard thing I think is to conserve energy,” Gallacher admitted. “You’re here quite a long time before the Friday start.

“My uncle sort of told me it’s been a long week, early mornings and late nights.

“You have to conserve energy, get rest when you can and just be ready for the three days.”