Ryder Cup 2014: Paul McGinley and Tom Watson prepare to bet the farm on their wild cards

Captains to announce their picks after judging whether form or experience counts more towards glory

As much as Paul McGinley loves a stat, numbers are of limited use in choosing a wild card for the Ryder Cup since, for the most part, they do not add up. That is the role of the qualifying table, to make the decision for you on the basis of form over a given period, nine men good and true selected on merit.

The requirement of European captain McGinley in his long deliberations, and of his American counterpart, Tom Watson, was to intuit on the basis of experience the value of the candidates given the balance of the team. The successful players will be unveiled on both sides of the Atlantic today, with McGinley going first at the European Tour headquarters at Wentworth.

Stephen Gallacher is in the Celtic-to-win-at-home class of favourites to catch his master’s eye and is thus expected to escape the fate of Sisyphus after his uphill lunge for the line in the Czech Republic and Italy this past fortnight. Gallacher finished 10th on the points list, missing out on an automatic spot by just one point and a bit.

Were tournaments on the European Tour, where Gallacher plays the majority of his golf, to yield ranking points of equal value to PGA Tour events, he would have been measured for his suit weeks ago. Sunday’s third-place finish in Turin was his seventh top 10 in his past 12 events. McGinley does not need to resort to calculus to measure the trajectory of that performance arc.

Though Gallacher would be the third rookie on the European team alongside Jamie Donaldson and Victor Dubuisson, at two months shy of his 40th birthday he appears an unlikely candidate for stage fright. And to judge by the way he stood his corner in a three-ball with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods in February, en route to becoming the first to defend the Dubai Desert Classic title successfully in its 25-year history, Gallacher can look after himself in the Ryder Cup playground.

Ian Poulter’s credentials in this area are beyond embellishment. He can be a cussed bag of ambiguity around a conventional tournament, often betraying the attitude of an entitled teenager. But he is our pain in the arse, his contribution to the whole greater than the points he puts on the board. In all the projections surrounding deadline day, none have excluded the 1,000-yard stare from Stevenage.

That leaves three players for one spot, Ryder Cup leviathans Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, plus the fairway-finder-general Francesco Molinari, who has appeared in the last two events. The case against Westwood and Donald is form. Over the piece it has not been good enough. The problem for Molinari is that his has been no more persuasive.

Of the three, Westwood is by a nibble the most compelling and is expected to get the call. Westwood found something on the range in Ohio to produce a final-round 63 at the Bridgestone and took that form into the last major of the season, the PGA Championship in Louisville, where he opened with a 66 to lead on day one before finishing in 15th place.

Westwood did not have his most influential Ryder Cup at Medinah or Celtic Manor but he has a knack of confounding expectation at big events and understands the demand, having assumed the role of leader in the field for much of the past decade.

Donald is still in the thick of swing issues, waiting for the changes perfected on the range to bear fruit with a card in his hand. Though he finished only four points shy of automatic qualification, Donald’s year does not have the peaks demonstrated by Westwood.

Tricky as it is to disappoint players who have served Europe well, McGinley’s plight is eased by the quality of those already in the locker room. No European captain in the history of the competition has had at his disposal players ranked so high and in such good form.

Four of the top five players in the world wear blue, starting at the top with the imperious McIlroy, followed by Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. And then there is Martin Kaymer, who won the Players Championship and the US Open in the space of four weeks this summer.

Captain Watson, as the Americans insist on addressing their legendary leader, has at his disposal a middling bunch shorn of key figures through injury, Woods and Jason Dufner; or lifestyle, Dustin Johnson. And his wild-card options have hardly been blowing any doors off. Of those who made the team automatically, Watson has Ricky Fowler, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker, Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth in decent nick, Bubba Watson at odds with himself somewhere in Bubbaland and Phil Mickelson up one day down the next. That leaves Patrick “top-five” Reed, who missed the cut at the Deutsche Bank championship in Boston with a second-round 82.

Of Watson’s wild-card options, Hunter Mahan looks a banker following a return to form in the last month, culminating in victory nine days ago at the Fed-Ex Play-offs opener, the Barclays. Keegan Bradley is heavily fancied, too, largely as a result of his Poulter-like relationship with the event.

At Medinah, Bradley assumed the role of cheerleader, whipping up the crowd around the first tee before kick-off and forming a potent partnership with Mickelson that was unanswerable before the captain, Davis Love III, opted to rest them on Saturday afternoon. Big mistake.

Worth a shot? wild-card options


1 Ian Poulter Ryder Cup specialist who missed out narrowly on automatic qualification. You want him in that dressing room, eyes on stalks.

2 Stephen Gallacher Most improved player on European Tour, especially his short game. A rookie but gutsy, great temperament, in form and Scottish.

3 Lee Westwood Not his best year but turns up at big events. Shown form this past month with top 15 finishes at Bridgestone and PGA Championship.

4 Luke Donald Never been on a losing side and deadly on the greens. But struggling with swing changes and low on confidence.

United States

5 Hunter Mahan Unlucky to miss out last time. A winner last week at Barclays, seventh at the PGA and 15th at the Bridgestone. That’s proper form.

6 Keegan Bradley The American Poulter, irrepressible in team room, self-appointed cheerleader on the tee box and a potent partner for Phil Mickelson.

7 Webb Simpson If his putter is on, watch out. Off at the Barclays last week, where he missed the cut, back on in Boston. Good timing.

8 Bill Haas Steady as you like. The 2011 Fed-Ex champ has not won this year but neither has he missed a cut. Went well in Boston, too.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Jonatahn Sexton scores a penalty
The dress can be seen in different colours
weird news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?