Ryder Cup joy for veteran Westwood
The 41-year-old Englishman will be making his ninth consecutive appearance in the biennial team event.
LONDON - Former world number one Lee Westwood breathed a huge sigh of relief after being handed a wildcard pick by Europe captain Paul McGinley for this month's Ryder Cup against the United States.
The 41-year-old Englishman will be making his ninth consecutive appearance in the biennial team event and only three Europeans have played in more Ryder Cups - Nick Faldo (11), Bernhard Langer (10) and Christy O'Connor senior (10).
Westwood won the Malaysian Open in April but has slipped down the world rankings to 38th and is grateful to have been given a wildcard along with 2012 hero Ian Poulter and rookie Stephen Gallacher.
"The Ryder Cup has always been a massive thing for me and I was delighted to get the call from Paul," Westwood said in a European Tour news release.
"It was a long day yesterday but when Paul rang with the good news I was relieved. I've played a lot better in the last month and a half.
"I've been showing some form and given Paul a reason to pick me. I'm honoured to be representing Europe again," added Westwood who has a record of 18 wins and six halves from 37 matches since making his debut at Valderrama, Spain in 1997.
At the other end of the spectrum of experience, Gallacher will be making his Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles from September 26-28.
The 39-year-old has a good record on home soil, having won the 2004 Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns and losing out in a three-way playoff for the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
"It's massive for me and my family. It's been a goal all my career to play in the Ryder Cup," said Gallacher, the nephew of former captain Bernard.
The world number 33 came agonisingly close to earning an automatic place in Europe's team on Sunday.
Needing a top-two finish at the Italian Open in Turin, Gallacher wound up in third place.
"On Sunday I had mixed emotions," said the winner of the 2013 and 2014 Dubai Desert Classic.
"I was delighted with the way I played but disappointed not to have made the team automatically. I knew there were other great players in with a shout of getting a pick so I really didn't know what was going to happen. I'm just glad it all turned out okay in the end."