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Stephen Gallacher: Italian Open is a chance for Ryder Cup hopefuls to make a statement

Marco Simone Golf Club will host this year's tussle between Europe and United States - and this week is a chance to impress.

Robert MacIntyre. Image: Shutterstock.
Robert MacIntyre. Image: Shutterstock.

I’m delighted to have landed a late invite to this week’s Italian Open in Rome.

This is a huge event as this week’s host course, the Marco Simone Golf Club, is where Europe and the United States will contend the Ryder Cup later this year.

The players in the field will know a victory this week could go a long way to securing their place on Luke Donald’s team.

Scotland’s very own Robert MacIntyre won here last year which put him right in the frame.

Whoever wins this week will be making a real statement of intent.

The two previous winners – Robert and Nicolai Hojgaard – are both in contention to represent Europe.

If you have won at the host course then that can only work in your favour when Luke is making his selection.

The course looks brilliant – and it is playing a lot tougher than last year.

The rough is up and they have redesigned some bunkers. It is going to be a really good test this week and scoring could be difficult. I expect this will be very similar to how the course is set-up for the Ryder Cup.

It is going to be a hugely important week for those with Ryder Cup aspirations but it is also a great week in its own right.

There is an added edge this week with much of the infrastructure designed for the Ryder Cup already up around the course.

The players will get a real feel for what it will be like come September 29.

There is a grandstand built for 5,000 people around the first tee and it will feel like being in a football stadium. It is going to be phenomenal.

The Ryder Cup is only a few months away and it is easy to see there is already a real buzz about the place.

I was really grateful to secure an invite for the event. I can’t thank the organisers enough. Hopefully I can make the most of it.

While I am here I have also been doing some work ahead of captaining the European Junior Ryder Cup team in September. I went to have a look at Golf Nazionale which is co-hosting the event with the Marco Simeone.

I played pretty well at the Abu Dhabi Challenge last week so it would be good to keep the momentum going.

Saltires flying high on leaderboard

We have had a few saltires on the leaderboard in recent weeks so hopefully it is more of the same in Rome.

We could easily have had two Scottish winners in recent weeks with a bit more luck.

Pablo Larrazabal went out on a demanding golf course and shot a superb 67 to win the Korea Championship by two shots.

Scott Jamieson finished tied third and Robert was tied seventh. It is so tough to win on tour but it is great to see the Scottish players in contention.

Robert has had a couple of good weeks heading into the Italian Open where he is the defending champion.

It would be great if he manages to another solid week – and even better if he can give himself a shot of defending his title.

We have quite a few Scots playing this week and the more we have in the field the better the chances of a Scottish winner.

It was also a very good week for Aberdeen’s Gemma Dryburgh on the LPGA Tour. She finished tied 13th on the JM Eagle LA Championship. She looks like she belongs on the LPGA Tour, especially since her win in Japan last year.

She is going from strength to strength and I’m looking forward to watching her progress over the summer.

Hannah McCook also won on the Rose Ladies Series at The Grove in Hertfordshire on Tuesday.

That will give her a nice confidence boost heading into the LET Access Series.

McIlroy outlines reasons for skipping RBC Heritage

Rory McIlroy has spoken for the first time since withdrawing from the RBC Heritage.

The decision not to play the event could cost McIlroy $3million (£2.4m) as it was the second designated event that McIlroy had missed and the players in the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program are only allowed to miss one.

It doesn’t matter how rich you are, I don’t think anybody would want to lose out on that amount of money.

Rory McIlroy reacts to his shot on the first hole during the second round of The Masters. Image: AP.

He clearly felt he needed a break after The Masters.

Rory has said he felt he needed to sit out the RBC Heritage for his “mental and emotional wellbeing.” 

The build-up to The Masters probably took more out of Rory than he realised, especially mentally.

He would have been trying so hard to win the career Grand Slam and he will have felt very low after missing the cut.

He decided the best thing for him was to take a break and spend time with his family.

If he goes on to win some big tournaments later this year then he will feel he made the right decision.