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Stephen Gallacher barnstorms but falls just short of automatic Ryder Cup place

If there are any upholsterers out there, then there are surely a few seat edges to be repaired today.

Stephen Gallacher escapes a bunker on his way to a final-round 64 which secured third place but not an automatic Ryder Cup spot. Picture: Getty Sport
Stephen Gallacher escapes a bunker on his way to a final-round 64 which secured third place but not an automatic Ryder Cup spot. Picture: Getty Sport

An entire nation must have been perched on the end of them yesterday afternoon.

Stephen Gallacher's rousing, last-gasp Italian Job almost threatened to blow the bloody doors off as the Scot heroically strived to barge his way into the final automatic place on the European team for this month's Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

It was uplifting and agonising at the same time as the 39-year-old finished just one place and one shot shy of the promised land in the Italian Open. Trust David bloomin' Howell to save his best round of the year until yesterday. His spectacular 63 gave the Englishman second place behind eventual champion Hennie Otto. Gallacher needed at least a share of second, with just one other player, to leapfrog Graeme McDowell into the ninth and final automatic spot on the European points list.

His third-place finish, however, means he'll be nibbling his nails as he waits for European skipper Paul McGinley to call him and offer up a wild card pick. And surely that phone will ring with glad tidings.

It would be a travesty if this spirited Scot is not in this Scottish showpiece having reared up so close. Gallacher has reeled off a brace of top-10 finishes in the last two qualifying events and now has more of those finishes - eight to be precise - than any other player on the European Tour this season. Playing under the kind of pressure that even a bathysphere would have cracked, he responded superbly.

McGinley urged his men to make a "sprint finish" to the line and Gallacher certainly got his legs working. Given that he was 15 shots off the lead, and 12 off second place, before he'd even started round two in Turin on Friday, you have to admire Gallacher's grit, mental resolve and golfing prowess as he hauled himself up the field over the weekend. It was an astonishing effort in every sense and he has demonstrated the attributes required for the roaring bear pit of the Ryder Cup arena.

His attacking golf yesterday was superb while the par putts he saved, particularly on the 16th and 18th, were nerveless. Gallacher has made a compelling case for inclusion and there continues to be a groundswell of support among his peers on the tour. Even Rory McIlroy took to the frenzied social media scene to offer his backing amid all the online plaudits. Now, it's over to McGinley.

If he doesn't pick him, of course, the likeable Irishman will probably be about as welcome in Scotland as David Cameron. It's a huge call to make and in the emotional aftermath of Gallacher's rip-roaring assault, the European skipper was remaining calm. Ian Poulter, Luke Donald - who are both still competing in the US - and Lee Westwood are the big hitters on the wild card list and McGinley has stated that Franceso Molinari is the other name in this gang of five, along with Gallacher.

The easy option - and there isn't really an easy option - is to opt for that trio of Ryder Cup stalwarts but, as has been well documented, they are all relying on former glories having watched their form desert them this season.

"There is a lot of emotion here at the moment and we have to put a bit of cold water on that," said McGinley. "Stevie will look back with huge pride on what he has done today. The gun was to his head but he performed very strongly.

"His performance will have an influence on the picks but at the same time he is not guaranteed, there are other players to assess as well. He has a lot of things in his favour but let's not get carried away; other players do as well. There is more to it than just the emotion of Stevie's performance. I have got to do what is best for Europe."

At the end of an Italian Open in which Richie Ramsay's fine share of fourth was overwhelmed by the Ryder Cup tsunami, Gallacher can, quite rightly, be proud of his efforts.

"I was still trying to win the tournament and it was strange knowing that second could do it, but I gave it my best shot and I hope Paul likes what he sees," he said.

"It now comes down to someone else's opinion and I wanted to qualify myself just to take that away. There are three picks to come and I just hope I have done enough to get one."

Gallacher, and a nation, awaits.

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