LOTHIANS star Stephen Gallacher kept his seat at ‘The Open in the Sun’ after coming close to emulating one of the event’s iconic rounds.
And, late on at the end of a dramatic day in East Lothian, he was joined in the final two rounds by West Linton’s Gareth Wright.
Gallacher’s second-round 70 at Muirfield contained 16 pars – two less than Nick Faldo signed for in the last round en route to the first of two title triumphs here in 1987.
“I know how he must have felt because it was a grind,” admitted Gallacher after securing his spot in the final two rounds on four-over following his second-day 70.
The Dubai Desert Classic champion only deviated from par at the fifth and ninth, where he had contrasting fortunes.
Unable to get a stance at all in a greenside bunker at the fifth, he dropped a shot there. But, after seeing his second shot hit the out of bounds wall and cannon back on to the green, he holed a 30-footer for an eagle at the ninth.
“You always keep it below the wall height at that hole!” joked the 39-year-old from West Lothian. His opening-round 76 had come when the greens turned lighting-fast in the hot and dry conditions on Thursday afternoon.
Stopping golf balls beside the hole was almost impossible but yesterday Gallacher struggled to get putts up to them after the surfaces had been hand-watered overnight.
“I can’t believe the difference in the course from Wednesday to Thursday to Friday,” he declared. “The greens went from 15 on the stimpmeter on Thursday afternoon to nine overnight.
“But that’s the course probably at its best. The greens are perfect. They are holding enough and are putting at a decent pace. It was a totally different wind (switching round to the east) from yesterday. In the first round at the 15th I hit a drive and 5-iron and today it was a 5-iron and wedge.
“The 17th today was driver, 3-iron, wedge when you were getting up in two yesterday with a 2-iron. That wind is definitely the toughest here.”
Enjoying the chance to stay at home in Linlithgow and be faced with only a 40-minute drive to the course, Gallacher added: “You need luck like I had at the ninth because there are also times when you’ll get back luck in these bouncy conditions.
“I didn’t feel I’d played that badly on Thursday, when I just missed a couple of fairways and was dead. But I managed to come out with a good attitude today.
“If you can’t have a good attitude here in front of crowds like that and playing in the sunshine, then there’s something wrong.”
Edinburgh-based Welshman Wright survived a back-nine scare before making the cut on his debut in the world’s oldest major.
The Tartan Tour star dropped five shots in a row from the 12th to leave himself no further room for error. But, showing great character, he parred the last two holes for a 78 to make it with one to spare.
The two other Lothians players in the 156-strong starting line-up on Thursday failed to be amongst 85 qualifiers.
Archerfield’s Lloyd Saltman (77) finished on 14-over, three less than Craigielaw amateur Grant Forrest.
After an opening 73, Forrest was brought back down to earth with a thump as he slumped to an 86.
“I can’t remember the last time I shot 86, which is a bit embarrassing,” admitted the 20-year-old from Craigielaw. “But it’s been a great experience for me.”
It included playing two rounds with Mark O’Meara, a two-time major winner and still around for the weekend here.
“I felt bad for him,” said the American of Forrest’s second-day struggles. “He didn’t play very well but it’s a learning experience. He’s got good skills and he’ll be all right.”