AS ONE of life’s social individuals, Stephen Gallacher may well have made the walk from the centre of Linlithgow to his home just outside the West Lothian town in the early hours. If anyone saw him pounding the streets at 3.30am yesterday morning, however, it wasn’t because he’d enjoyed a lock-in at a local hostelry.
After a suggestion by his manager, Iain Stoddart, the Dubai Desert Classic champion set his alarm for an unearthly hour so as to give the back injury that had threatened his participation in the Johnnie Walker Championship a chance to loosen off.
“I was up at half three trying to get the back up and moving and I went out for a walk,” revealed Gallacher after battling through the pain barrier to card a praiseworthy one-under 71 – three shots fewer than his opening effort here 12 months ago, when he still managed to finish in the top ten.
“Thank God the police didn’t see me wandering the streets in the middle of the night with my hoodie up! Under the circumstances, that’s probably the earliest I’ve got up for a round of golf but I needed to warm it up and see how it was. It was the acid test as to whether or not I could play.”
Despite physiotherapy that Gallacher described as “proper seatbelt stuff” after arriving at the course, every full shot produced a jolt of pain from the injury – sustained, bizarrely, while washing his car. It was worth it, though, as the 38 year old delivered one of the best blows of the day – a 4-iron to about two feet for an eagle-3 at the 18th, his eighth hole after starting at the 11th.
“I can’t get the right posture, so I’ve got to stand a bit funny, but I just have to get on with it,” Gallacher said afterwards. “That’s what you have to do every now and then, just try to grind it out.”
As for future car washing duties in the Gallacher household? “Well, it won’t be me anyway,” he insisted. “I took a daft turn going to clean it anyway. I don’t know what I was doing but that will teach me.”
The participation of Gallacher’s compatriot Richie Ramsay was also threatened by injury – this time a neck problem. But Ramsay’s trouble was caused by an adjustment to his swing.
“I was getting a lesson on Sunday and, instead of doing it right, hitched my shoulder up,” revealed the Aberdonian after recovering from being two-over after three holes to sign for a three-under 69 to finish top Scot alongside Craig Lee and Chris Doak.
“I started hitting balls, didn’t think anything of it, but the next morning the left side of my neck was really tight,” he added. “If it wasn’t for the guys in the physio truck, I don’t think I would have played. A lot of credit goes to them, but, at the same time, I played really well.”
What also pleased Ramsay, who will skip next week’s Wales Open, the start of Europe’s qualifying campaign for the Ryder Cup here in 13 months, was he enjoyed playing with Alvaro Quiros without feeling the need to be too macho in the company of the big-hitting Spaniard.
“It’s crazy how far Alvaro hits it – into a different postcode to me,” said the Aberdonian with a smile. “On average, if I hit a good one and he hits a good one, I’m 30 yards behind – and that’s being generous to me.
“If I had that length off the tee, the sky would be the limit. But, while it used to affect me, it was good that I didn’t pay much attention to how he got it round [Ramsay beat him by a shot]. With swing speed, you’ve either got it or you don’t and I’ve never been renowned as a bomber.”