Stephen Gallacher tells Ryder rookies to enjoy ‘longest week’

Stephen Gallacher helped Europe to Ryder Cup victory two years ago at Gleneagles. Pic: TSPL
Stephen Gallacher helped Europe to Ryder Cup victory two years ago at Gleneagles. Pic: TSPL
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Stephen Gallacher has told Europe’s Ryder Cup rookies to enjoy the “longest and hardest week” of their lives in the 41st staging of the transatlantic tussle.

Darren Clarke’s side for the match starting at Hazeltine on Friday includes six newcomers – English quartet Danny Willett, Andy Sullivan, Matt Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood as well as Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello and Thomas Pieters from Belgium.

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They’ll be aiming to help Europe secure an unprecedented fourth victory in a row after wins at Celtic Manor, Medinah and Gleneagles, where Gallacher was one of three rookies in Paul McGinley’s team.

“I think they will be buzzing,” said the Lothians star of the sextet about to feel the heat in golf’s biggest team event for the first time.

“I played with Andy Sullivan in the Italian Open a fortnight ago week, when it was great that they all played well in their last tournament before heading out to Hazeltine, and have also spoken to a few of the others.

“I’m sure the six newcomers we have in the team will give a great account of themselves and there’s no chance they will be frightened by the challenge that awaits them this week.

“Five of them qualified automatically, after all, and the guy who needed a pick, Thomas Pieters, is a future world-beater, believe me.

“Danny Willett is the Masters champion and I don’t see players as being rookies any more. Back in the day that may have been the case when not as many Europeans went over to America to play, but not now.

“The guys are playing loads of events over there and playing in America doesn’t faze people any more.”

Gallacher, of course, enjoyed the added thrill of playing in the event on home soil and expects this week to have been planned with the same meticulous preparation by Team Europe.

“It will be like clockwork for the guys,” he predicted. “They will simply turn up and play because it’s phenomenal what people do behind the scenes in preparation for the event.

“The first thing Paul told us was, ‘we are going to enjoy it and have fun’, and I’m sure that’s the same message Darren will be getting across to his players.

“It’s a big event they’ll have all dreamt of playing in and I told them to just go out and enjoy it. It’s the longest and hardest week of your life, but they will love it.

“The minute you get there you are doing something, whether it’s a meeting, dinner, press conference or playing a practice round.

“It’s very regimental in that respect and, of course, we had motivational speakers at Gleneagles, including Sir Alex Ferguson. We were favourites and he played every game at Manchester United as a favourite.”

While McGinley is a hard act to follow, Clarke is heading into the event in Minnesota with a thumping win in the EurAsia Cup earlier in the year under his belt.

“We’ve got a good template and I’m sure Darren will do well,” said Gallacher. “He’s spoken to all the past captains and I can’t see him doing it much different, to be honest, as there’s no need to.

“We are the holders and we want to keep it. I know people are saying it would be good for the Ryder Cup in America won this one, but I’d rather we won it all the time.

“We are still seven or eight behind overall. We are just closing the gap in that respect.

“They are hurting from recent results, which is why they’ve set up a task force and are trying everything they can to get the Ryder Cup back.”

Gallacher’s goal is to get back on this stage when the 2018 event heads to Le Golf National in Paris after seeing a wrist injury leave him out of the picture on this occasion.

“I’m writing this year off,” he declared, having only recently returned to European Tour action with a new swing that was required to prolong his career. “Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have no pain and the new swing has bedded in and I will be starting in earnest again.”