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Stephen Gallacher: Hero Cup will have boosted Robert MacIntyre and Ewen Ferguson’s Ryder Cup prospects

Robert MacIntyre in action on day two of the  Hero Cup at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Image: AP.
Robert MacIntyre in action on day two of the Hero Cup at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Image: AP.

Robert MacIntyre and Ewen Ferguson did their Ryder Cup hopes no harm whatsoever in last week’s Hero Cup.

Despite Continental Europe coming out on top in the inaugural tournament at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, our two Scottish representatives performed well.

I was fortunate to be there as I was doing some media work. It was a brilliantly-run event and a great warm-up for European captain Luke Donald and his team.

It will have given him plenty of thoughts about potential pairings that could work in Italy in the showdown with the United States later this year.

It will have also shown him how comfortable players are in this environment and format and I thought Bob and Ewen were fantastic.

Shane Lowry was full of praise for Robert and how he would back him if he was left with an eight foot putt to win a match.

Ewen also impressed.

Ewen Ferguson in action at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Image: AP

Edoardo Molinari, one of Luke’s vice-captains, is highly regarded for his use of stats and he had someone walking round with every group last week, crunching the numbers.

I believe Ewen was almost leading the stats going into the Sunday singles. He lost his singles match against Sepp Straka but that can happen, even if you play very well.

There was a great atmosphere in both team rooms which is promising for Rome.

The Hero Cup was a great way for the Ryder Cup hopefuls to start the season. I had it in the past with the Seve Trophy and the EurAsia Cup – it really gave you a taste for what was to come.

Robert is used to team environments through his shinty and you could see that. He was enjoying that environment. He is a team player and that goes a long way.

Luke Donald won’t just be looking at how players perform, he will also be looking at how they are in the team environment.

Bob and Ewen ticked all the boxes from what I saw.

Francesco Molinari, the captain of Italy and Continental Europe team, holds the Hero Cup trophy with his team. Image: Shutterstock

I’m sure the week was also invaluable for players such as Seamus Power and Sepp Straka who haven’t played a lot of their golf on the DP World Tour.

Sepp is number 25 in the world and he looks like a really strong golfer.

The Austrian has shown a willingness to play his golf over here and is desperate to make the team.

There were a few events to inspire and inform the players during the week. They spoke to former European captains Jose Maria Olazabal and Thomas Bjorn. Paul McGinley also did a talk. The next night Sam Torrance, David Howell and myself spoke to the players about our experiences.

Luke is trying to integrate as many players as possible who have played in it to give their insight to the players.

He made us all feel part of it. He is doing a great job, it bodes well for Rome.

Talking a good game

As for my week of being an on-course commentator, I really enjoyed it. It was hard work as we were doing two rounds in a day. I was working alongside Wayne ‘Radar’ Riley so it was good entertainment.

It was a great opportunity to watch a bit of golf as you can learn from the chance to watch these guys in action over the five rounds.

It was a different dynamic to playing but one I enjoyed. You are always watching and learning.

Match-play is great for reading into the body language of the players.

I know the course really well, I was being asked about body language and match-play is great for that.

You can see when someone is under pressure or feeling confident. I took quite a lot from the week. I’m going to commentate at a couple of other events later in the year and I’m looking forward to it.

Relishing Dubai chance

I was delighted to land an invite for next week’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

As a previous winner, it is a tournament I love playing and I’m thankful to everyone involved that I got the invite.

I have been up at Jumeirah Estates at the Tommy Fleetwood Academy for a couple of days. I’m playing the Earth course on Saturday and then I will start playing the Emirates course on Sunday and start my preparation in earnest.

This year I’m only playing on invites and at previous tournaments. I will supplement that with a bit of Challenge Tour and a couple of bits of TV work.

I’m trying to work as hard as I can so that when I get the opportunity I am ready to play. It is going to be tough to stay competitive some weeks so I may dip into the Challenge Tour to keep myself ticking over.

I just need to knuckle down and treat them normally. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself because I’m not playing too much. I have worked hard over the winter so I’m really looking forward to it.

Hero Cup likely to have impact this week

I’m expecting the winner of this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to come from one of the 20 players who took part in the Hero Cup.

I’ve heard from some of the players that the course is in unbelievable condition.

It can get windy at Yas Links and the course wouldn’t be out of place on the east coast of Scotland.

The players who played in the Hero Cup will have benefited from five competitive rounds.

I fancy Robert to do really well. I was impressed by him last week.

Previous winners of the event include Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters, Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood.

They are all top players and I expect a big name to come out on top again this weekend.