LONDON (Reuters) - Ryder Cup hero Sam Torrance believes this year’s European team is as strong as the side featuring greats like Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer that won on U.S. soil for the first time in 1987.
Torrance, who holed the putt at The Belfry in 1985 that ended a 28-year American stranglehold on the trophy and also captained Europe to victory at the same venue in 2002, cannot wait to see the current crop of players in action at Gleneagles from Sept. 26-28.
“I honestly believe this is one of the strongest European teams I’ve seen,” the 61-year-old vice-captain told Reuters in an interview.
“Muirfield Village in 1987 was a fantastic team but this one is as good a team as we’ve ever had.
“We’ve got four of the top five players in the world rankings in Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose and the overall depth of the squad is fantastic,” added Torrance.
“The team also contains major winners like Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell and among the rookies I think it’s amazing, for instance, the amount of talent Frenchman Victor Dubuisson has.”
Torrance’s fellow Scot Stephen Gallacher was one of captain Paul McGinley’s three wildcard picks, along with Ryder Cup stalwarts Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood.
Some pundits have questioned rookie Gallacher’s selection because he has never won a singles match in the Seve Trophy, Royal Trophy or EurAsia Cup team events.
Torrance, however, said the 2013 and 2014 Dubai Desert Classic champion fully merited his wildcard choice.
“We were all on the same page in terms of the discussions,” he explained. “Stephen finished a point behind McDowell on the world points list and for a player that plays predominantly in Europe like he does, to get that close was an incredible performance.
“Ian Woosnam never won a singles and he was a pretty good player in the Ryder Cup. But I don’t want to remind the world that Woosie never won a singles because he’ll probably shoot me,” laughed Torrance.
“It doesn’t matter what Stephen’s record was, he thoroughly earned his spot in the team.
“You don’t pick someone just because he will be playing on home soil but obviously it’s fantastic for the crowd, for the team, for everybody. The whole of Scotland wanted Stephen in and he earned his place.”
Torrance, who will share vice-captaincy duties in Scotland later this month with Padraig Harrington, Jose Maria Olazabal, Des Smyth and Miguel Angel Jimenez, also said Poulter was undroppable even though he has had an indifferent season.
“You leave Ian out at your peril,” added Torrance who also represents Standard Life Investments, worldwide partner of the Ryder Cup (www.standardlifeinvestments.com/rydercup).
“Along with Seve he’s probably got the title of the greatest European Ryder Cup player ever.
“We were left with one more pick, it was a tough choice between Luke Donald and Lee Westwood but we all agreed that Lee was the man.”
It has been a while since Torrance was last involved in golf’s biggest grudge match and he is grateful to have received the chance to rejoin the fray for holders Europe.
“I just can’t wait for Gleneagles,” he said. “I told Paul the other night, ‘Thanks so much for the opportunity’.
“The Ryder Cup is something I never thought I’d be part of again.”
Editing by xxx