Bernard Gallacher: Walker’s PGA win shows the true strength of golf in 2016

Golf Care, 2nd August 2016

Golf Care caught up with its ambassador and three-time Ryder Cup captain, Bernard Gallacher, to get his thoughts on the fourth and final major of 2016: The PGA Championship. Bernard discusses the gap between golf’s ‘big four’ and the rest of the field, the influence of golf coaches and the question of Ryder Cup team selections.

With four first-time major winners in 2016, does this prove the gap between the world’s top golfers is not actually as great as the rankings suggest?

It does, yes. There’s no Jack Nicklaus out there, there’s no Tiger Woods, there’s no single player that is going to dominate for the foreseeable future. There are just too many talented golfers around.

I personally think that Jack is probably the greatest golfer that ever lived, closely followed by Tiger Woods. It just shows you how good Tiger Woods was because he not only dominated the majors when he played, but he dominated every time he played – for a long time.

What did you make of Jimmy Walker’s performance, where he held off a chasing pack containing the world number one and the recent Open Champion?

It hasn’t been going too well for him this year, but he just felt a bit more comfortable this week. He’s been working on the right things with his coach Butch Harmon. The soft course seemed to suit him. He’s long off the tee and he felt more relaxed on the greens.

Playing 36 holes on the same day when you’re in the lead and playing well is a big advantage. You don’t have a restless night at the hotel, you’re not going to the media centre and talking about what might happen tomorrow, there’s no tense build up. You’re more or less finishing the third round and going straight back on the course right away. He took advantage of that by playing well all day. He’s obviously very fit because 36 holes in one day can be quite gruelling.

He credits Butch Harmon for improving his game. Harmon doesn’t only help him with the mechanics of the game, he also helps him with his temperament as well. He looked nice and calm on the last three or four holes. And as you could see on television, he’s a very nice guy – a very modest guy.

Bernard Gallacher said Butch Harmon had a big influence on Jimmy Walker
A deserving champion, Jimmy Walker with his coach, Butch Harmon.

How much influence do you think golf coaches have?

2016 major winners Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson are both coached by Peter Cowan. He understands their swings well, he’s with them all the time and when they’re going on the golf course he gives them a confident stamp of approval.

It’s also interesting that Dustin Johnson, US Open winner, and Jimmy Walker, PGA Championship winner, are both coached by Butch and Claude Harmon III. Great coaches give players confidence.

A word on Rory McIlroy, who has missed the cut in two of this year’s majors now. It seems his putter is letting down all his good work from tee to green?

The old golf adage of ‘you drive for show, but you putt for dough’ really sums up Rory’s golf at the moment. He was top of the driving stats for the first two rounds, but he’s well down in terms of stats on the green. To win a major you’ve really got to do everything well, but especially putting.

I think Rory needs to talk less about his bad putting because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when you start to talk about it. But I do think he needs some help on the greens from someone. Putting is a game within a game – there’s no right or wrong technique. You’ve just got to find a technique that you’re happy with and try to get some confidence.

Bernard Gallacher thinks Rory is struggling on the greens
Rory McIlroy lines up a putt at the PGA Championship. Not Rory’s best week on the greens by a long way.

Do you think any of the players’ performances could change the makeup of the Ryder Cup teams?

The captain is always looking at the players who do well in the majors. I think Martin Kaymer did himself a lot of good finishing tied 7th because he was on the cusp as far as making the Ryder Cup is concerned. Tyrell Hatton was also brilliant. Padraig Harrington, even though he’s already a vice-captain, must be in Darren Clarke’s thoughts as a wildcard because he’s starting to play very well. He’s a three-time major winner and wouldn’t let the team down.

I think it’s too close to call. Davis Love III will be very happy that Jimmy Walker has qualified automatically. There were double points available yesterday as far as the Americans were concerned, so Jimmy Walker and Brooks Koepka are both comfortably in the team now because of those double points.

From Darren Clarke’s point of view, he’ll be pleased that two of his team members have won majors in 2016, likewise for Davis Love III, so it just shows it’ll be nip and tuck. But I just hope that the home advantage doesn’t just swing it to the Americans.

Looking forward to golf’s next big event, are you excited to see golf being played at the Olympic Games?

There have been some big name dropouts as we know, but the guys that are going are all excited and the Olympics is exactly what golf needs. There are 3.5 billion people that watch it and even if they only get a glimpse of golf it will help.

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