You have to feel a bit for Luke Donald.
Firstly, welcome to my new column on the excellent UAE Golf Online, I hope that my look into Golf both here in the UAE and globally will give you a different view to talk about.
I have met Luke Donald and interviewed him many times and (like pretty much every pro golfer) he is extremely nice, witty and intelligent. As a former world number one and the 2011 Race to Dubai champion he already has an excellent CV but his omission from the European Ryder Cup team for 2014, shouldn’t be all that surprising. On the PGA Tour this year so far, he has missed 4 cuts from his 17 events played. 2 of those missed cuts came in Majors.
He has never been a long hitter, but his immaculate short game used to compensate for lack of distance. This year though, he just hasn’t found any form that should convince Paul McGinley of his usefulness at Gleneagles in a few weeks. McGinley was Luke Donald’s playing partner when Luke first appeared in a Ryder Cup match. They have had a close, mentoring-style relationship ever since so you would imagine that phone call on Tuesday would have been very hard for both sides. But it was the right call to make and Stephen Gallacher is the right man to fill that ‘Luuuuuukkkeee’ space.
Gallachers’ efforts under intense scrutiny in the Italian Open were exceptional. To finish 3rd by a single shot, knowing that 2nd or 1st would have guaranteed him a Ryder Cup berth, shows the kind of guts needed to cope with the cauldron of the sport’s most intense week. But, he has shown this ability before. He outlasted McIlroy and Woods to retain his Dubai Desert Classic title earlier this year.
Gleneagles is his home course, he lives 60 miles away from the place. The course may have been altered in the run up to staging the Ryder Cup, but the Scot will know a lot more than the 23 other players involved.
As for Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter? Well, Westy hasn’t had a good year but probably pips Donald marginally. Poults isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders either, but you don’t leave out a man called “Mr Ryder Cup”
Over in the States, Tom Watson announced a trio of players with that American-first-name-syndrome. I have never met a Hunter, a Webb or a Keegan in my life, but they are all experienced with the Ryder Cup. The fact Watson chose the studio of Saturday Night Live to announce his captain’s picks opens up the chance to make derisive comments about them being a joke. But I disagree. With Woods out of the equation, team bonding will be better than ever. Phil Mickelson will be the unofficial team leader and I can imagine he will relish that role.
It will be another gripping week of sport. And for those of us in the Gulf region we have the added bonus of knowing that win, lose or draw every member of that European team will be at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in November. I just can’t say if the DP World Tour Championship Dubai will be a victory parade or a wake.