This is it for Stephen Gallacher. The Italian Open this week is the Scotsman’s last chance to qualify for the European Ryder Cup team on merit. He’s currently 11th in the World Points List. Only a first or second place finish will guarantee him a spot at Gleneagles.
The three-time European Tour winner heads to Torino, Italy on the back of a seventh place finish at last week’s Czech Masters. He’ll need to improve further on that showing this week, in an event which he has not played since 2010, to oust Graeme McDowell in the final qualifying position.
The world No.34’s best result in the Italian Open came over ten years ago in 2002 when he ended the tournament in tenth. However, this time around, the 39-year-old will do battle on a different course.
“If I play well and finish in the top two then I am a Ryder Cup player and that is something that I have dreamt about my whole life," Gallacher told europeantour.com.
"I had to have the best year of my career to try and make the team." - Stephen Gallacher
“It’s quite funny that everyone’s asking if am nervous about the week ahead but the best place for me to be at the moment is on the golf course.
“To be a Scotsman who lives 35 miles from Gleneagles trying to get into the team brings a lot of hope and expectation and pressure, but most of all it is an exciting week for me.
"I had to have the best year of my career to try and make the team and I have done that so far. I just need one more big week and that is what I am trying to do.”
McGinley empathetic towards Stephen Gallacher
European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley knows all to well the pressures of a last gasp attempt at Ryder Cup qualification.
The Irishman narrowly secured a place in Bernhard Langer’s 2004 European side after a duel against Frederik Jacobson in the last tournament of the season in Germany.
“I can understand the pressure the guys are under,” said the 47-year-old to europeantour.com. “I can relate to it. There is no doubt that the performance I had in Munich in 2004 that pushed myself over the line was a huge psychological boost for me.”
"He is very much in it and I wish him the very best of luck." - Paul McGinley
In 2006 at the K Club, McGinley was part of a winning Ryder Cup team on home soil. That ‘privilege’ is still fresh in his mind, and he’s wished Stephen Gallacher ‘the very best of luck’ in his bid for a Ryder Cup appearance in Scotland.
“I can relate to Stevie,” said the Ryder Cup veteran. “I was in a situation where I had to go head-to-head so I know how he is feeling. I know how he has been feeling the last few weeks.
“He is very much in it and I wish him the very best of luck. I know what it is like to play a Ryder Cup in your home country, I had that privilege in 2006. I want to see guys bursting over the line.”
Tomorrow, Stephen Gallacher tees of at 8:30am with Edoardo Molinari and Matteo Manassero.