IT MAY have seemed a low-key finish to the European Tour season for the Scottish contingent but Stephen Gallacher’s closing 66 in Dubai couldn’t have come at a better time for the Lothians man.
That six-under-par effort, bettered only by winner Henrik Stenson on the final day in the DP World Tour Championship, secured 19th spot in the Race to Dubai and, with it, some tasty treats for Gallacher next season.
For starters, he’s definitely secured a spot in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in July, a reward for finishing inside the top 30 on the money-list.
Unless the criteria changes from this year, Gallacher should also have secured a berth in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral next March, when he could still be trying to earn an invite to The Masters by breaking into the world’s top 50.
More immediately, the Dubai Desert Classic champion will find out today if he’s also earned a trip to South Africa in a fortnight’s time for the Nedbank Golf Challenge after the field for the Sun City event was extended from its previous invited format.
The leading ten available players from within the top 30 on the final Race to Dubai are eligible, putting Gallacher right in the frame with only Stenson from the top four amongst the entries and, even then, he’s unlikely to play now.
Gallacher put himself under pressure following an opening 77 at Jumeirah Estates and dropped to 24th at one point in the projected standings. But the 39-year-old secured his best finish since claiming 15th spot in 2004 after a final salvo that started with four birdies and, following his only dropped shot of the day at the eight, was followed by three more on the back nine.
It lifted him 19 places into a tie for 34th, a cheque for just over £37,000 taking his season’s earnings to close to £1 million.
“Today was much better all round,” said Gallacher before heading off to catch a plane to Australia, where he is partnering Martin Laird in the World Cup of Golf starting at Royal Melbourne on Thursday. “I can’t wait to play my favourite course and represent my country,” he added of that assignment.
Scott Jamieson, in joint-26th after a closing 69, finished as the top Scot in Dubai, but 31st spot in the Race to Dubai meant he agonisingly lost out to Paul Casey by less than £2,600 for the last of those Open exemptions. Marc Warren, 33rd on the money-list, will also have to qualify for Royal Liverpool, as will Craig Lee (59th).
The latter is starting his 2014 schedule in this week’s South African Open, for which Alastair Forsyth was sitting in the second reserve spot last night following his Qualifying School success on Friday.