- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 2, 2014

VIRGINIA WATER, England — It was not an easy phone call for European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley — breaking the news to Luke Donald that he was being left off the team to face the United States at Gleneagles this month.

Donald is a former No. 1 who has lifted the trophy with Europe on each of his four Ryder Cup appearances. But he was the big omission when McGinley picked Stephen Gallacher, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter as his three wild-card selections Tuesday.

“That was a very, very difficult conversation — my relationship with Luke is very close,” said McGinley, who was Donald’s playing partner for the Englishman’s first Ryder Cup match. “He was very, very disappointed, and rightly so. …His record in the Ryder Cup stands with anybody in the game.”

Donald has one of the best short games in the world and is a brilliant putter, making him a key player in Europe’s wins in 2004, ‘06, ‘10 and ‘12.

But he has struggled for form this year after making changes to his swing. Second place at the RBC Heritage in April was his last top-30 finish on the PGA Tour, a shadow of the player who rose to No. 1 and was the leading money-winner on both sides of the Atlantic in 2011.

McGinley said Donald reacted in classy fashion when told he wasn’t being selected.

“Even though you have not picked me, I still believe you’ll be a great captain,” McGinley quoted him as saying. “His last few words were: ‘Go Europe.’ I think that says a lot about Luke.”

McGinley has three rookies in the 12-man team that will face the U.S. in Scotland from Sept. 26-28, with Gallacher joining Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson.

The other players who qualified automatically for McGinley’s team were Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Thomas Bjorn and Graeme McDowell.

McGinley announced his captain’s picks at European Tour headquarters at Wentworth hours before U.S. captain Tom Watson was to reveal his.

McGinley said it came down to a choice between Donald and Westwood.

”Lee just slightly pipped him,” McGinley said.

For McGinley, the fact Gallacher lives only 35 miles (56 kms) from Gleneagles and would be a crowd favorite did not factor into the decision-making process.

“There’s no doubt Stevie Gallacher has proved himself and earned his spot on this team,” McGinley said.

The 39-year-old Scot narrowly missed out on automatic selection after finishing third at the Italian Open on Sunday. A top-two finish would have seen him oust McDowell as the final qualifier.

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