THE final team selections for the 2014 Ryder Cup have been announced with the best of European golf set to face off against a crack US squad at Gleneagles in Scotland late September.
European Captain Paul McGinley named Englishmen Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood along with Scot Stephen Gallacher as his three wild card selections while US Captain Tom Watson went with experience in Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson.
Automatic selections for Europe were Thomas Björn, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
The rest of the US team comprises Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler,
Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, and Zack Johnson.
Europe will be defending champions when they take on the US on The PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles from September 26-28.
The captain’s picks were mostly very predictable, with maybe only Watson’s selection of Webb, who hasn’t had the best of years, open to question.
Deutsche Bank Championship winner Chris Kirk, who finished higher than Simpson in the final Ryder Cup standings, might feel a little disappointed, but Watson said his decision was based on experience and gut feeling.
“That was a snapshot,” Watson said of his decision not to take Kirk.
As for McGinley, he could hardly leave out Poulter, the man most credited with inspiring Europe’s remarkable comeback in Chicago in 2012, when he claimed the final point of Saturday afternoon’s fourball session thanks to five closing birdies.
The Americans were still poised to win at Medinah when they took a 10-6 lead into the final day, only for Poulter, Rose, Garcia and Kaymer to deliver key putts and big comebacks that allowed Europe to retain the cup.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” 38 year old Poulter said after his selection was confirmed. “To get the call was amazing. I can’t wait for Gleneagles. It’s a fantastic feeling and I’m proud to be a pick. The Ryder Cup means a lot to me and I can’t wait. It’s always difficult to make a Ryder Cup team and this one was no different. Paul had a very difficult decision with some fantastic players to pick from.”
Whilst the 41 year old Westwood will be making his ninth consecutive appearance, Gallacher will have the honor of making his Ryder Cup debut in his home country.
“It’s massive for me and my family. It’s been a goal all my career to play in The Ryder Cup and I was delighted to get the call from Paul. It was a long day yesterday,” Gallacher said.
Europe has won seven of the last nine events and has to start heavy favourites to again retain the cup, particularly in Scotland. It remains to be seen if Watson, himself an immensely popular figure in Britain, can weave any of his special magic in leading a Tiger-less team to what would be a memorable US victory.