STEPHEN Gallacher, who made a promising start to his title bid in the BMW International Open in Cologne yesterday, is determined to return to the scene of a former triumph by earning a spot in next month’s Open Championship.
The 37-year-old Scot won the Lytham Trophy, one of the amateur game’s top events 17 years ago, and doesn’t want to miss the party when the Lancashire course stages the world’s oldest major in a few weeks’ time. “I would love to play the Open because I won the Lytham Trophy on my last visit there in 1995 and I think my best chance in the majors is on courses where I’ve grown up and where the wind doesn’t faze me,” he said.
Gallacher, who is the field for next Monday’s Open qualifying at Sunningdale, opened with a five-under-par 67 in Germany, to trail joint leaders, Marcus Fraser of Australia and Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti, by three shots.
“I’m disappointed that I had the chance to go to seven-under and didn’t take it, but I’m delighted with my start nevertheless,” he added.
David Drysdale was on course to join his compatriot at five-under before a bogey-bogey finish saw him to settle for a 69, the same as Colin Montgomerie, Alastair Forsyth and Steven O’Hara.
Peter Whiteford carded a 70 while Paul Lawrie finished level alongside Gary Orr and George Murray. Marc Warren had a 73 to finish one ahead of Craig Lee, with Scott Jamieson is struggling to make the cut following a 74. England’s Chris Wood staged his own version of “The Great Escape” before starting with a seven-under-par 65. Among a number of golfers stuck in traffic and worried they might miss their tee-off times, the 24-year-old from Bristol led a breakaway movement through the fields.
“We finally decided to leg it when we had gone one kilometre in 20 minutes – it was that bad,” Wood said.
The former England international, still seeking his maiden victory on the European Tour after three runner-up finishes, grabbed no fewer than nine birdies on the Gut Larchenhof course. There were also two bogeys on his card, however, and with a seven-under-par 65 he finished the day one behind Fraser and Zanotti.
“It was the best I’ve putted all year,” added Wood, perhaps best known for his fifth place in the 2008 Open when still an amateur and then his tie for third the following year at Turnberry. Scoring was low following some heavy rain, but that did not help Paul Casey on his latest return from injury. Ten years on from scoring a career-low 62 on the same lay-out, Casey – who missed last week’s US Open to give his shoulder more rest – managed only a 76 to be down near the rear of the 156-strong field.