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Whether or not he pulls off his Italian job, Stephen Gallacher deserves to play in the Ryder Cup

YOU know that feeling on a golf course when you get to the seventh or eighth hole of a particularly torrid round in which you have watched more balls disappear than a vet in an industrial neutering factory, and you have a despairing guddle about in your fusty bag to discover that there are only three battered old Pinnacles left to sustain you through the rest of the ghastly voyage?

Stephen Gallacher needs a top-two finish in the Italian Open to be sure of Ryder Cup involvement. Picture: Tony Marshall/Getty Images
Stephen Gallacher needs a top-two finish in the Italian Open to be sure of Ryder Cup involvement. Picture: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Well, I thought about this the other day when listening to the various haverings on the referendum and the fact that the yittering heid honchos have rummaged around and declared that the North Sea apparently has 25 billion barrels of oil left to keep us ticking over.

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If things get desperate, you can imagine our esteemed leader, Wee Eck, getting down on his hunkers, peering into the dark recesses of the dusty Bute House pantry and hollering the words 'haud on, thur's six mair barrels ahint yon jar o' Branston Pickle'.

Unlike us crude golfing thrashers, it seems the nation is not running on empty just yet. Let's hope Stephen Gallacher isn't either. The topsy-turvy journey towards the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles reaches its conclusion at this week's Italian Open and the 39-year-old will be drawing on the last reserves of fuel for one last push.

If you do up the calculations - a kind of awkward, finger-counting exercise on a par with totting up those aforementioned barrels of ruddy oil - the number crunching concludes that Gallacher would need at least a share of second in Turin to seize the final automatic qualifying spot off the world points list from Graeme McDowell.

If that doesn't happen, of course, he will have to rely on one of Paul McGinley's three wild cards, which will be announced by the European captain at Wentworth a week today.

Whatever the outcome, Gallacher has acquitted himself superbly over the course of the long qualifying campaign and has been tireless in his pursuit of points, having bounced back and forth across the Atlantic on both European and PGA Tour duty while adding events into his jam-packed schedule to give himself every opportunity of achieving this lifetime dream.

He has made no secret of his desire to emulate his uncle Bernard and play his part in a Ryder Cup even though he must be sick to the back teeth of the relentless probings that accompany every event he plays in. The added pressure of being the only beacon of hope for fans who want a Scot to cheer - and the biennial battle won't be back here for a long time - has only added to the hefty burden.

Barring a last-gasp Italian job, Gallacher, who has racked up a win and eight other top 10s during the qualifying process, will have to depend on that captain's pick and the danger for the Scot is that form may be overlooked in favour of former glories. Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, a trio of Ryder Cup stalwarts, are all requiring a wild card too while Italy's Francesco Molinari remains a threat to Gallacher's ambitions.

Should that English triumvirate of Poulter, Donald and Westwood get the call ahead of Gallacher, then it would be a considerable slap in the face and would send out the message that Team Europe is effectively a closed shop and an old boys' network of nod-and-a-wink customs.

What's the point in the likes of Gallacher battering away to the bitter end if it's just the same faces, with their laurels from cups gone by, getting ushered in on the back of previous heroics? Yes, experience is a useful weapon in the armoury but what happens when those weapons are misfiring?

McGinley needs to be brave and bold and there can be no room for dewy-eyed sentiment. Donald's form, after a second and a fourth on the PGA Tour in the spring as well as a third in the BMW PGA at Wentworth, has tailed off while Westwood, apart from occasional flashes, has endured a pretty desperate season. Poulter was warned 12 months ago by McGinley that if he "has a very poor year next year he won't be in the team". He enjoyed a strong finish to 2013, but Ryder Cup year has hardly been a vintage one for the man who was revered as a golfing Messiah for his exploits in the Miracle of Medinah two years ago. It's been a poor year but poor enough to miss out? I doubt it. Westwood and Donald are the ones on the dicey ground.

McGinley has always been an advocate of 'horses for courses'. Gallacher certainly fits that bill with seven top-15 finishes since 2001 over Gleneagles's PGA Centenary course, including a play-off defeat in last season's Johnnie Walker Championship. Donald has never played it, Poulter was last there about 10 years ago and Westwood hasn't played it since 2008.

The presence of a Scot would be huge for this Scottish showpiece. McGinley was never going to pick one for the sheer hell of it but Gallacher has given him plenty of reasons to do it.

Then again, he may just win the Italian Open and we'll not need to worry about wild cards. Whatever the route, Gallacher deserves his Ryder Cup chance.

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