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Golf: Westwood, Poulter and Gallacher get Ryder Cup callups

Europe's Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley on Tuesday (Sep 2) made his three wildcard picks for Gleneagles, selecting Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher. 

LONDON: Europe's Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley on Tuesday (Sep 2) made his three wildcard picks for Gleneagles, selecting Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher. But there was no place for former world number one Luke Donald, despite being ranked higher in the world than the three chosen ahead of him to complete the 12-strong team.

Already assured of a place in the European team for the September 26-28 showdown with the Americans in Scotland were Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Victor Dubuisson Jamie Donaldson, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell. That means that McGinley has at his disposal four of the top five ranking players in the world in McIlroy, Stenson, Garcia and Rose - all of whom have past Ryder Cup experience - along with three rookies in Dubuisson, Donaldson and Gallacher.

In all, there are seven players who retain their place from the team that two years ago in Chicago staged the greatest final day comeback in Ryder Cup history to defeat the Americans 14 1/2 to 13 1/2. The five changes involve Gallacher, Donaldson, Dubuisson, Stenson and Thomas Bjorn replacing Donald, Peter Hanson, Paul Lawrie, Nicholas Colsaerts, and Francesco Molinari.

All the focus on Tuesday, however, was on what three picks skipper McGinley would make, with two former world number ones, Westwood and Donald, going up against Ryder Cup hero Poulter and 39-year-old would-be debutant Gallacher. In the end it was Donald, a veteran of four previous European Ryder Cup wins, but who has been in relatively poor form of late, who missed out.

McGinley said that he had been convinced to give Gallacher his first Ryder Cup cap on the back of his third place finish in the Italian Open on Sunday. The Scot had needed to finish second to dislodge McDowell from the ninth and final qualifying spot, but came up just one shot short after a tremendous closing round of 65.

"Stevie was incredible under the spotlight in Italy last week," said the Irishman, who sunk the winning putt for Europe at the Belfry in the 2002 Ryder Cup. "I told him to go and have a drink to celebrate, and he said: 'Is that ok, can I go and have a drink?' so you can see he's taking it seriously." He added: "I am very proud for him being Scottish and I know what it feels like playing in your home country (K-Club outside Dublin in 2006) ."

Donald, he said, had been unlucky to miss out and had been very disappointed to learn he had not been chosen when McGinley had him on the phone. "Luke has been an incredible performer over the years and his Ryder Cup record is outstanding," he said. "It was a very difficult call to make but I had to do it in the interests of the European team."

Westwood will be playing in his ninth Ryder Cup as an ever-present since 1997 and he leads the way for European wins with six to his name, one more than Colin Montgomerie. "Lee - he had a real sense of pride that he's made the team, very gracious and humble," McGinley said.

US skipper Tom Watson will announce his three wildcard picks in New York later on Tuesday with the certainty that they will not include Tiger Woods who is unavailable through injury.

Europe have won five out of the last six Ryder Cups and will start strong favourites once again in Gleneagles with the biennial inter-continental showdown returning to Scotland for the first time in 31 years.