Stephen Gallacher rated the Ryder Cup as “ten out of ten” despite being unable to contribute to Europe’s 16.5-11.5 victory over the Americans at Gleneagles.
The Lothians star played in only two of the five sessions in Perthshire and tasted defeat in both those outings, the second in the singles against Phil Mickelson.
But he will still cherish the memories from his first appearance in the event, notably the rousing reception he received from 45,000 fans around the course, being part of a great team and Paul McGinley’s outstanding captaincy.
“I’d rate the majors I’ve played in as one [out of ten] and this as a ten,” said Gallacher after joining McGinley and his team-mates at a joyous – and often hilarious – post-match press conference.
“When I was at Valhalla [playing in the US PGA Championship] this year, there was no-one singing ‘Glory, glory Stevie Gallacher’.
“I got that at Gleneagles in the Ryder Cup and it was amazing to play that first hole with thousands upon thousands of people surrounding it.”
Gallacher lost in the company of Ian Poulter in the opening session on Friday, the pair suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of rookies Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth.
The Scot then sat out the next three sessions, but had no complaints whatsoever about his captain’s decisions as McGinley masterminded Europe’s eighth win in the last ten matches.
“Was it [sitting out both sessions on Saturday] tough?” reflected Gallacher. “Not really. Because it’s happened to players in the past. Martin Kaymer, for instance, had the same experience at Medinah, then holed the putt to retain it.
“While we gelled as people, me and Poults didn’t quite gel on the course the first day and didn’t make the birdies we needed to out there.
“We also came up against a pairing in Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed who proved they were tough over the three days.
“To sit out was okay. I was brand new because it’s a team event and when you’ve had guys winning the foursomes 3.5-0.5 the previous day you’ve got to keep that formula. To win the foursomes 7-1 was outrageous and I simply can’t speak highly enough of Paul McGinley. He had a plan, a formula from the start and that helped get the job done.
“He had 12 really good players and five really good captains and that’s why were are celebrating now.”
Has it whetted his appetite? “Definitely,” said the 39-year-old in reply to being asked if he wanted to be involved in more Ryder Cups. “There’s one in two years’ time [at Hazeltine in Minnesota] and I want to be there.”
Against Mickelson, Gallacher played brilliantly, but came up against a man who was out to prove a point after controversially being left out of both Saturday sessions as well by US captain Tom Watson.
To the delight of the crowd, Gallacher drew first blood with a birdie at the first, only for Mickelson to move up a gear and win the fifth, sixth and eighth with birdies. Gallacher rolled in a monster at the par-3 tenth to send one of the day’s biggest roars reverberating around Gleneagles, then birdied the next as well to draw all square.
But, after holing a good par putt for a half at the 12th, the American delivered two killer blows as he birdied the 15th and 16th before closing out a 3&1 success.
“I played hard and he did, too,” said Gallacher. “It was nip and tuck and Phil holed a lovely putt from around 25 feet for par at the 12th for a half. After halving the 14th in birdies, he then birdied the 15th and 16th. I was four-under and he was six-under at the end. I’m happy with how I played today and proud to be part of the team.”
Compared to Friday, when it was a bit flat, the first tee was rocking for the singles as the European fans turned up the noise for McGinley’s players.
Admitting it had been a bit of a blur, Gallacher said: “You walk on to the first tee to shake Ivor Robson’s [official starter] hand and Alex Ferguson is standing there and Alex Salmond, too. I said, ‘Hello’ and they said, ‘Hello’ back. They were just being polite and it was nice for them to acknowledge the hard work I’d put in to make it into the team.
“It was a great thrill to be there, as a Scot, on the first tee in the last day of the Ryder Cup and I gave it my best shot against one of the world’s best players.”
While bitterly disappointed to end up on the losing team for the eighth time in ten Ryder Cups, Mickelson spoke warmly of both Gallacher and the home fans.
“I’ve had a chance to know Stephen for a while now and he’s just a class act – a quality guy,” said last year’s Open champion.
“What I was really pleasantly surprised with was even though I knew there was going to be huge home support from the crowd, the people here were terrific.
“They were very courteous, respectful of everybody. Obviously they were more boisterous in their applause for Stephen, that’s great.
“But I was really pleasantly surprised with how well and with how much respect they treated myself, too.”
Leading 10-6 heading into the singles, Europe won the final session by a point through victories from Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia as well as halves from Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and Victor Dubuisson.