Stephen Gallacher came up one shot shy of qualifying for his first European Ryder Cup team on Sunday.
Even so, it would now be a massive surprise if he were left off the 12-man roster.
Needing to finish first or second at the European Tour’s Italian Open, Gallacher finished alone in third after a bogey-free 65 that included six consecutive pars to close. He was three shots behind winner Hennie Otto and one back of David Howell, who closed with 63 to steal runner-up honors.
“The last two weeks were really pressure situations,” Gallacher said. “It was a tall order, but I’m proud of myself and the way I played. Can’t get any closer than that.”
As a result, Graeme McDowell earned the ninth and final qualifying spot on the European team. With a 5-5-2 career record, the Northern Irishman will be making his fourth consecutive Ryder Cup appearance.
Much like Jamie Donaldson a week ago in Prague, Gallacher summoned the goods when he needed them most. After beginning the week with an even-par 72, the Scotsman got hot with rounds of 65-69-65 in the final audition for the Ryder Cup team.
It’s not just that Gallacher rose to the challenge and contended for the title in Italy – his eight top 10s this season are the most of any European Tour player. Plus, he has an intriguing history at Gleneagles, residing only 40 kilometers from the club and losing in a playoff there last year.
With Gallacher seemingly a no-brainer wild-card pick, Paul McGinley will have to decide between veterans Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald for the final two spots.
McGinley will make his three captain’s picks on Tuesday morning, live on Golf Channel.
“When it comes down to somebody else’s opinion, I wanted to qualify myself just to take that away,” Gallacher said. “Four or five guys are worthy of it. It’s just a matter of what Paul sees.”
Nine qualifiers for the 2014 European Ryder Cup team:
• Rory McIlroy
• Henrik Stenson
• Sergio Garcia
• Justin Rose
• Martin Kaymer
• Victor Dubuisson
• Thomas Bjorn
• Jamie Donaldson
• Graeme McDowell