LONDON (Reuters) - Former captain Tony Jacklin is delighted Ryder Cup rookie Stephen Gallacher made him eat his words by securing a place in Europe’s team for the showdown with the United States in Scotland this month.
Jacklin, Europe’s most successful skipper of all time having won two matches, tied one and lost one, told Reuters at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May that he thought the 39-year-old Scot was “a bit iffy sometimes” and “a bit tender-minded”.
Gallacher came within a whisker of dislodging Graeme McDowell from the automatic nine Ryder Cup qualifiers and received his reward on Tuesday when he was picked by captain Paul McGinley as a wildcard choice along with Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood.
“I criticized Stephen because I thought his performances were a bit lethargic,” Jacklin told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. “But he has put his heart and soul into it since then and has done really well.
“If I helped him in any way I’m pleased I said what I said. I didn’t mean it in any derogatory way and he has certainly proved he is made of the right stuff and I think he’s capable of having a great Ryder Cup.”
Jacklin’s comments provoked an angry response, especially among Gallacher’s fellow countrymen, but the 70-year-old Englishman said perhaps it was the gee-up the triple European Tour winner needed.
Asked if the 2013 and 2014 Dubai Desert Classic champion had proved him wrong, Jacklin replied: “Absolutely. If what I said made him move up a gear or two, then it was worth saying it.
“We all need a bit of a kick up the backside every now and then and he’s performed brilliantly since then. For a guy who doesn’t play regularly in America I think he’s done a great job and I’m delighted for him that he’s got in the team.”
The winner of the 1969 British Open and 1970 U.S. Open said Gallacher rubber-stamped his wildcard pick by finishing third, when the pressure was on, at last week’s Italian Open in Turin.
McGinley said he was particularly taken by the way the Scot produced a storming back nine of 30 to surge through the field with a second-round 65 in Turin.
That effort helped him fight back into title contention after opening with a disappointing level-par 72.
“If there was any doubt about whether Stephen deserved a place in the team he gave a compelling case in Italy,” said Jacklin who is on a UK-wide theater tour until Oct. 16 (www.tonyjacklin.com/theatre-tour).
“That was one helluva performance. Having a Scottish presence in the team at Gleneagles isn’t one of those things a captain bases his picks on but equally I do think it’s nice there will be a Scottish representative in the team, and a deserved one at that.
“Stephen is someone who has really battled to win his place and more power to him for that.”
Jacklin, who captained Europe in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1989, said there was no argument about whether Europe’s Ryder Cup talisman Poulter and former world number one Westwood deserved a pick.
However, he said it was a shame that Luke Donald, another former world number one, would miss out on the biennial team event for the first time since 2008.
“Poulter was always going to be in the team,” explained Jacklin. “He shot a good 66 in the last round of the Deutsche Bank Championship in Massachusetts on Monday and of course his Ryder Cup record speaks for itself.
“Lee’s also got a great record. I’m just sorry Luke hasn’t got in the side because he’s got a terrific short game.
“Unfortunately he hasn’t shown any sort of form at all this year. It’s almost like he’s not been with it but he’s got a tremendous game from 100 yards in and that’s a good quality to have in match play,” said Jacklin.
“Every captain, though, needs to go into the Ryder Cup fray knowing he’s got the best 12 players available and Paul ended up with the best 12 available.”
Holders Europe will take on the Americans at Gleneagles from Sept. 26-28.
Editing by Ed Osmond