Former AC Milan and Chelsea star Andriy Shevchenko helped Stephen Gallacher play in a Ryder Cup on home soil.
Paul McGinley, last year’s winning captain at Gleneagles, has revealed that Shevchenko’s advice led the Irishman to get a message to Gallacher through the media before the final counting event.
That was the Italian Open in Turin, where the Bathgate man produced a brilliant performance to finish third, earning one of McGinley’s three wild cards in the process.
“I had gone to the media and demanded that of him – and I’ll let you in on why,” said McGinley.
“I was playing golf with Andreiy Shevchenko, the great AC Milan and Ukraine footballer who I know really well. He’s a one-handicapper and a great player, a good friend of mine.
“It was the week before the picks were announced and I asked him, having played under Mourinho, Ancelotti and all those guys, what they would do in a situation like that, when they need a big performance from a player – and you don’t know if he’s got it in him or not.
“He said, ‘Put him under pressure. Because, if they don’t handle that pressure, they won’t handle the pressure of the Ryder Cup’.
“I explained to him about Stevie, told him I needed a big performance from him in Turin if I was going to justify him as a pick.
“He said, ‘Go to the media and tell them he has to perform. If he doesn’t perform, he won’t be on the team. Because, if he won’t perform in the Italian Open, he won’t be able to perform in the Ryder Cup’.
“So that’s what I did. And I made a point, knowing I’d be asked about Stevie, to say that, ‘He needed a big performance – and, if he didn’t perform, it was unlikely he wouldn’t be in the team. If Stevie’s got it, he’s got it’. And he did have it.”
Gallacher has a mountain to climb to retain his spot for next year’s match at Hazeltine after dropping nearly 100 spots in the world rankings over the past 12 months.
But, having seen his own form dip on the back of Ryder Cups, McGinley is backing the Lothians star to start climbing in the right direction again before too long.
“When I made my first Ryder Cup team in 2002 (at The Belfry), I holed the winning putt and everything was great, but 2003 was a poor year for me,” recalled the Dubliner. “It happens a lot. You see a lot of guys achieving a goal and then they fall off.
“I fell off again in 2006 after making my home Ryder Cup at the K Club. It’s understandable and that seems to be exactly what has happened with Stevie. It’s important he galvanises himself now and not be known as Stevie Gallacher, who played one Ryder Cup.
“That’s a huge motivation and was for me in 2004. I made a dash for the line and that’s Stevie’s challenge now. He’s got the game, he’s got the heart, he’s been there before. He has to galvanise himself and go forward again.”