STEPHEN Gallacher boosted his Ryder Cup prospects, silencing Tony Jacklin at the same time, as he shot the best last round at Wentworth along with winner Rory McIlroy.
Joint 47th at the halfway stage, the 39-year-old catapulted himself up the leaderboard with closing efforts of 68 and 68 to finish joint fifth in the BMW PGA Championship on nine-under-par.
It has been feast or famine for Gallacher in the European Tour’s flagship event over the past decade or so. He finished fourth in 2010 but on every other visit to the Surrey venue since 2004 had missed the cut.
“I didn’t have a good second round,” he said of a 75 that only just got him into the final 36 holes, “so I’m delighted with nine-under at the weekend.” His closing effort, illuminated by four birdies in a row from the 11th, was flawless, while Gallacher only dropped two shots in his final 39 holes on the demanding Burma Road.
It was a timely performance from the double Dubai Desert Classic winner after he had been branded “tender-minded” by four-times Ryder Cup captain Jacklin as he assessed candidates for this year’s match at Gleneagles.
While Gallacher has too much class to tell Jacklin he doesn’t have a clue what he’s going on about, having only met him once in the past 12 years, it is clear that he is aiming to let his clubs do the talking.
One of them will need to be replaced, though, by the time the Lothians man plays in this week’s Nordea Masters in Sweden after he snapped a shaft escaping from perilously close to a tree with his second at the 17th.
“I knew I would have to sacrifice a club on 17, or I might have smashed my wrist into the tree. The thumb’s a bit fat and black and blue, but it will be ok. It’s a dangerous sport!” he said.
Gallacher was lying 14th in the Ryder Cup standings heading into the Wentworth event. Having picked up a cheque for just under £150,000, he could move up a spot or two when the updated positions are published today, having already climbed to eighth in the Race to Dubai on the back of this eye-catching effort.
“This is the time of the season when I want to start playing well. The next two months will be huge and this will give me a lot of points and a lot of confidence,” he admitted.
“I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t knock another birdie off on the last two but it’s been a good weekend. I just wanted to go out and post a low number.”
While Gallacher certainly took pride of place, Chris Doak (tied 12th), Marc Warren (tied 16th) and Paul Lawrie (tied 21st) also did their bit to make it a good week for the Scottish contingent at Tour HQ.
Doak, who covered the last six holes in three-under as he signed off with a gritty 71 for seven-under, picked up a career-best cheque for £60,000, a significant boost in his card retention bid as the former Tartan Tour No 1 jumped to 87th on the money list.
“I woke up feeling dizzy and went to the on-site doctor and he said it was labyrinthitis [an ear infection which affects balance],” he revealed afterwards. “He gave me two jabs in the arse and I felt alright after that. This is my biggest cheque but hopefully for just a short while.”
Warren, pipped in a play-off 12 months ago, failed to get within challenging distance on this occasion but nonetheless will have taken plenty of positives from a six-under display that was capped by a closing 69.
Helped by eight birdies, Lawrie went two better and, having shaken off some rust over the past two weeks after returning from a lengthy lay-off with a neck problem, he is now relishing this week’s trip to Sweden.
“It was a good day,” admitted the former Open champion who, on five-under, finished five shots ahead of fellow Aberdonian Richie Ramsay, the other Scottish player to survive the cut.
“I’ve got a wee bit of a chest infection that’s been bothering me for a few weeks, but what can you do but get on with it and man up.
“Today’s the first day I’ve felt as though I’ve scored. You get rusty at that and it just takes a bit of time to get back to doing that. It’s the art of getting the ball in the hole and I’m getting there.”