Stephen Gallacher, the 2004 winner, could have played all three courses for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship blindfolded in the past and still given a decent account of of himself. This time around, though, he’s found himself having to learn how to get round Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and St Andrews all over again.
The unusual scenario is down to the swing change the 41-year-old has had to implement after being warned by medical experts that his career could be in danger if he continued to use the lifelong technique that led to him ending up requiring hand surgery.
“I played these courses since I was 15 and normally you can just turn up,” said Gallacher. “But I’ve played them all right to left [the shape he used to hit] and now I’ve got to see them left to right. I’m trying to shape it the other way, trying to figure out different winds and the ball isn’t running as far. It’s just a bit of a jigsaw putting the equation together.”
While it’s been a season he can’t wait to see the back of, having struggled with form due to the injury before being forced to take a complete break at the peak of the summer, the good news for Gallacher is that his European Tour card looks safe for next year. He’s sitting 153rd in the Race to Dubai, so needs a strong finish to climb into the top 110, but has the insurance of a top-40 spot in the career money-list if required.
“I’ve not had any problems with my hand,” he said of having played in five events since his return in early August. “The objective was to go to end the year with being comfortable hitting it left-to-right and then start back for next year. I can still hit it right-to-left, but the more I hit it left-to-right, I don’t get any pain. So I’ve had to do it. But I’m starting to drive the ball really well, so I’m looking forward to this week.”