SITTING just outside the automatic spots for the Ryder Cup with four events to go in Europe’s qualifying race, Stephen Gallacher reckons his Gleneagles goal is bigger than competing in a Commonwealth Games.
“It would be my Olympics,” declared the 39-year-old on arriving at Valhalla yesterday ahead of a crunch event in the intriguing battle to make Paul McGinley’s team for next month’s match in Perthshire.
On the back of the medals won by Euan Barton, Lynsey Sharp and Charlie Flynn, to name but a few, the focus has now turned to Gallacher as Scotland’s next step into the 2014 sporting spotlight looms.
“We don’t get many chances to play in a team event, especially on home soil, and that’s why I’ll be giving it my all over the next few weeks,” he added.
With each passing week now, there’s a fresh twist in the chase for those nine automatic berths, though in a positive way for the home captain as opposed to the problems being faced by opposite number Tom Watson, who has already lost the services of Dustin Johnson due to his break from the game and could also see Tiger Woods ruled out through injury.
Graeme McDowell, the match-winner at Celtic Manor in 2010, has climbed into eighth spot in the automatic standings after a top-ten finish behind Rory McIlroy in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. His elevation, coupled with Akron runner-up Sergio Garcia moving over to the European points list from the world one, has shunted Welshman Jamie Donaldson down to ninth, with Luke Donald now out of the automatic placings and Gallacher still 11th overall.
“I’m in the hunt – I just need to finish it off now,” admitted the Scot of his season-long goal. What’s that going to take? “How long is a piece of string,” he added. “All I can do is go out and play the best I possibly can in every event. I can’t rely on what other people are doing. I’ve just got to go out and qualify under my own steam.” With that in mind, Gallacher is staying on in the States to play in next week’s Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, and will keep his foot right to the floor until the qualifying ends on 31 August.
“I’ll go to both the Czech Republic and Italy (the final two counting events on the European Tour schedule) unless I’m inside the top nine by then and it is mathematically impossible for me to be overtaken,” he said. “I’m totally committed to the cause and Paul knows that.”
As Scotland was being gripped by Commonwealth Games fever, Gallacher was on a family holiday in New York before tying for 47th behind McIlroy in Akron.
As someone who runs a foundation specifically aimed at trying to give youngsters the chance to perform on the biggest stages in sport, however, he was delighted to see such a welter of Scottish success in Glasgow with a record 53 medals won.
“It was great to both watch and hear about the Commonwealth Games and hopefully they can get a bit more funding at grass-roots level on the back of it,” noted Gallacher. “That’s exactly what I’m trying do with my foundation.”