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Guessing games nearly over as Ryder Cup captains prepare to gamble

Can you remember Bullseye, that Sunday night staple in which darts buddies from the Howard Arms in Tamworth could win a teasmaid, fondue set or a Talbot Samba with a few throws of the arrows?

They had the time it took the board to revolve to decide on the ultimate gamble. It's a bit like this for Paul McGinley and Tom Watson in a tenuous, roundabout way. The respective captains of the European and USA Ryder Cup teams will name their three wildcard picks for next month's contest at Gleneagles on Tuesday. It's a golfing gamble all right, and only time will tell if they hit the bullseye with them.

No other golfing event generates as much pondering, speculation and rumour as the Ryder Cup. What would so-and-so bring to the team? How would this-and-that fit into the side? Would you offer thingamabob a wild card? Have you spoken to what-do-you-call him? The conjecture knows no bounds.

The guessing game will soon be over, though. "This is the toughest part of my job so far," admitted McGinley. "You're going to make phone calls to some guys who are friends and tell them they are not in the team."

The phones will be red hot and the likes of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Stephen Gallacher - barring a top-two finish at the Italian Open - will be waiting for a call. The predictable "if it ain't broke don't fix it" approach would be to go with the Ryder Cup stalwarts of Poulter, Donald and Westwood, despite the fact they have all be struggling for form. Gallacher, with more top-10s on the European Tour in 2014 than any other player, has made a compelling case for a pick, though, and there appears to be a groundswell of support for him among his peers judging by the online reaction to his second-round 65 in Italy as he strived to barge his way into the final automatic qualifying spot. A call-up would be thoroughly merited. A snub would raise questions about the closed-shop aspect of team selection.

Over on the other side of the Atlantic, things are looking rosier for Watson and his beleaguered line-up. Already missing Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and, quite possibly, Jason Dufner, Team USA were given a lift when Hunter Mahan emerged from a year-long slump to win the Barclays last weekend. Brandt Snedeker, another former cup campaigner, has also emerged from a deep slumber and having finished on the fringes of the top 10 in the PGA Championship, he took fifth at the recent Wyndham Championship.

Watson has plenty of other names to mull over. Ryan Moore, Bill Haas, Brandon Todd, Ryan Palmer and Webb Simpson are all in the frame while Keegan Bradley, who forged a fine partnership with Phil Mickelson in 2012 and won three out of three in foursomes and fourballs, may just get the nod on his past experience.

It's nearly time to take the gamble.

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