Bernard Gallacher: The Ryder Cup was gladiatorial – a great advert for golf!

James Tweddle, 3rd October 2016

Ryder Cup


Golf Care caught up with its ambassador and three-time Ryder Cup captain, Bernard Gallacher about the 2016 Ryder Cup. Bernard discussed where things went wrong for Europe, the need to revisit Europe’s selection rules and Arnold Palmer’s memory.

After Team USA regained the Ryder Cup 17-11, where do you think the contest was won or lost?

That’s a good question. I think it was lost on the opening day’s foursomes, the 4-0 defeat. We’ve got a good record in foursomes – in fact at Gleneagles, we won the foursome sessions 7-1 and they were the foundation for our victory. So to be 4-0 down so early this time around, we never recovered. It was a huge mountain to climb for the European team and they never made the deficit back.

Going into the singles, we had still only recovered one point – so trying to make back three points on the final day against such a strong American team became a near-impossible task, despite the memories of Medinah. We were also battling home advantage, and in singles especially, the crowd plays a big part.

The 50,000-strong crowd certainly created an atmosphere, do you think they went too far at any point?

A few did, there’s no question of that. I know Rory McIlroy suffered some personal abuse – which is wrong. But I didn’t think there was a lot of abuse overall, especially not towards Danny Willett, despite his brother’s remarks.

Danny Willett came out after the tournament and said his brother was right in his comments?

His brother was absolutely wrong. He was wrong because it disrupted Danny’s preparation. Instead of practising on the course, he’s trying to defend his brother and the US crowds. I know full well, anything that disrupts preparation in a Ryder Cup is a handicap, and Danny didn’t get so much as a single point. It was a distraction.

Davis Love III is having to talk about it, Darren Clarke is having to talk about it, the press are talking about it, Danny is having to talk about it, his mother and father were considering flying home… It was an unnecessary distraction from a tournament that should be completely about the golf.

Not just him, either. I believe Darren Clarke had Danny Willett lined up to go out with Lee Westwood in the opening foursome, and had to change it around last minute to keep him – he felt – out of the limelight. I’m sure that’s not the reason we lost that session 4-0, but it doesn’t help. Could he have got a point? Who knows.

Ryder Cup

During the tournament overall, there was very little negativity.

It was a fantastic Ryder Cup. There were birdies galore, and putting that was out of this world! The course was long, and suited us just as much as the Americans, despite rumours it would be tweaked to suit their style. The top match between Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy –  a real gladiatorial contest – you couldn’t take your eyes off the television!

Davis Love spoke afterwards about the effect Tiger Woods had in the locker room, did Europe need the same inspiration?

To be honest, Davis Love and his taskforce really were just following what Europe have been doing for many years. I’m sure the presence of Tiger Woods helped them, but Europe had Padraig Harrington and Sam Torrance behind the scenes in Hazeltine in their corner. They’re not Tiger Woods, but they’re incredibly successful, intelligent captains and golfers.

America adopted many of Europe’s tactics recently and it helped. The idea of taking four USA wildcards is something Europe have done the past three times, and adapting their qualification system to allow more players in on form. It’s the same with adding a presence in the locker room. No-one is quite sure what Tiger Woods did behind the scenes, but I think more importantly it showed willingness, solidarity and togetherness for the USA.

Ryder Cup

They were more of a team?

They looked like more of a unit. At Medinah it was the team spirit that won it for Europe, and the USA had it here. Europe have to up their game for next time in Paris, and that’s good for the Ryder Cup. Never underestimate home advantage, like I said. It was crucial here, and it will be crucial in France.

Should Darren Clarke remain as captain?

I don’t think Darren will stay. It seems very much to be a one-term appointment these days, especially as there are so many players behind him desperate for the chance. Padraig Harrington, as I previously mentioned, seems to have a good shout, Lee Westwood and Thomas Bjorn too, maybe even Paul Lawrie.

The only thing that could change that is if there’s a sense of unfinished business on Darren’s part, one last chance to finish the job. That was the situation with Davis Love. A really nice guy, I always thought he should have been captain at Gleneagles, because of the unfinished business from Medinah.

He captains by consensus, which works better these days. He finally got the chance to redeem himself here and he did. That is the only thing I can think of that might tempt Darren to stay or be asked to stay, a sense of unfinished business. Either way, we need to take a step back and deal with other issues first.

Such as?

Paul Casey should not have been sat at home watching the Ryder Cup on television, he should have been eligible to qualify. We need to take a good look at what stopped him from being a member of the European Tour. If players are going to play in America and are in the World Top 50, we need to look at the eligibility criteria for Europe, it’s not right. If you are in the Top 50, it makes it incredibly difficult to play both Tours. Paul is far too good a player to be watching on television while we lose.

Russell Knox as well perhaps should have played, but considering the amazing job Thomas Pieters did in his stead, perhaps he was the right pick.

Perhaps the one black mark for Darren Clarke, did Lee Westwood deserve his call up?

In defence of Darren, Lee has a good record in the Ryder Cup but he is getting on a bit now. He finished second in the Masters this year back in April, didn’t have a good summer but came alive during the run-in at the Irish Open and Open de France. You can’t really tell until the gun goes and his record spoke for itself, but you could immediately see he wasn’t quite the player he was a few years ago.

Overall, do you think the tournament was a fitting tribute to Arnold Palmer’s memory – as it was suggested?

The tournament had a lot of nice similarities with Arnold’s career. When he was captain in ’75 at Laurel Valley, the USA team also got off to a 4-0 start as well. His presence was definitely felt at Hazeltine, in the same way that I believe Seve’s presence at Medinah helped and inspired everyone. The American players here were all wearing one of his lapel badges, and his golf bag was on the first tee. There was a real sense that his spirit was there and it really helped them raise their game.

Ryder Cup

What was your personal highlight?

There were so many, but the one that stood out most has to be the opening singles match between Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed. The way they went at each other, it was gladiatorial at times. The way Rory was hitting that ball with such freedom and abandon was a joy to watch, he took it all in his stride. And the way he handled the crowd, holing 50-foot putts – it’s what the Ryder Cup is all about. It’s been a great advert for golf. They say people are switching off from golf – show them this Ryder Cup, they’ll all come flooding back!

Most importantly, despite the fact Europe lost 17-11, every single player and fan can’t wait for the next one in Paris – and here’s hoping we see the same high standard of golf once again, except with the score reversed!

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