With the 40th Ryder Cup matches at Gleneagles less than two weeks away, we spoke to three-time Ryder Cup captain and Golf Care ambassador Bernard Gallacher to hear his thoughts on the upcoming contest.
Is team Europe favourite to win the 2014 Ryder Cup?
On paper the Europeans are favourites. They have the World Number 1 Rory McIlroy who has won two Majors this year. Then Martin Kaymer who won the U.S. Open and The Players Championship, plus Henrik Stenson who is at Number 3 in the world. This is a big boost to the team room. So, it’s a very strong European side. In fact, I would say the strongest ever side. Plus it’s on home turf and there will be a partisan crowd. So, yes, Europe are strong favourites.
But I would qualify that by saying: in the Ryder Cup what’s on paper can, on occasion, go out of the window. Look what happened at Medinah last time. And in 2008, Nick Faldo took a very strong side to Valhalla and faced a U.S team without Tiger Woods, who was the best in the world at that time. We were favourites going in there and we lost by four points.
When the players pull on their team sweaters, each of them believes they can win every match they play and that’s what makes the Ryder Cup so special.
Speaking of Tiger Woods. How much will the U.S. team miss him?
Well the Tiger Woods of last year, the Tiger Woods who won five times and was voted player of the year, he’ll definitely be missed. But the injured Tiger of this year who hasn’t shown much form and has really struggled, he might not be missed quite so much. They will miss his presence in the team room though because he still has a great influence, as everybody recognises he has been the best in the world for 15 years.
From a playing point of view, I think the U.S. will really miss Dustin Johnson. He’s a very good match player and he played very well last time at Medinah. He was unbeaten in fact. Also Jason Dufner, they will miss him too I think.
The U.S. side is relatively inexperienced. Do you think some of the talented youngsters can step up to the plate?
That will be Tom Watson’s job – to make sure they do. Having Phil Mickelson in the team room will help too, but if anyone can get the best out of the side, calm and inspire them, it will be Tom Watson.
He’s one of the oldest Ryder Cup captains in recent times, ever in fact and, other than Steve Stricker, his captaincy team is fairly senior. Can Watson relate to the youngsters successfully?
I think the young players are going to show him a great deal of respect. Yes, he’s a senior golfer but he still plays in our Open Championship – it’s not so long ago he nearly won it of course. He played in The Masters and a selection of other Tour events this year. He’ll have made it his job since he was nominated captain to get to know the players and they will definitely respect him and listen to his advice.
I think he’s just the right choice for American captain at this moment and I’m sure he’ll do a great job.
Will the PGA Centenary course at Gleneagles suit either side better than the other?
Well the big advantage for the Europeans is that they have a tournament over this course. The Johnnie Walker Championship has been played on it 15 times since 1999, so it’s a course that most of the European players know very well.
But, I think the American players will be pleasantly surprised. It’s a Jack Nicklaus stadium-style course that won’t be too far removed from what they’re used to on the PGA Tour. This is good for the event as I think the playing field should be fairly level and that can only add to the excitement. It should be a thrilling contest.