Stephen Gallacher ended a poor run of results in spectacular fashion as he returned to winning ways with victory in the Hero Indian Open. The 44-year-old overcame a quadruple-bogey 8 in the final round in New Delhi to claim his fourth European Tour title triumph, revealing afterwards that it had been fuelled by a combination of his favourite food and favourite tipple.
“I was just so tired after Saturday’s round as it was the warmest I’ve ever been on a golf course – it was so hot,” said Gallacher in his winner’s press conference after a one-shot victory at DLF Golf & Country Club. “I went back to the hotel and had a nice curry. I also have a whisky every night when I come to India, so I might have to start doing that at every tournament.”
The Lothians man is certainly the toast of Scottish golf once again after he tasted victory for the first time in just over five years by throwing the formbook out of the window. He had come into the event on the back of four missed cuts in a row but, back at a venue where he had finished joint seventh 12 months ago, his confidence was clearly boosted by opening with a 67 and then matching that in the third round.
Three shots behind the joint leaders, American Julian Suri and Englishman Callum Shinkiwin, heading into the closing circuit, Gallacher looked to have killed off his title hopes as he had all sorts of problems at that seventh hole. A pulled drive ended up against an out of bounds fence, forcing to go back to the tee. Going with a 3-wood this time, he lost that one left and ended up playing 5 from the tee.
“I was actually quite calm as I just hit two bad shots,” he insisted afterwards. “I wasn’t thinking bad. It was one of those things on a tough golf course but, when I saw I was only five behind, it was good because I thought I might be nine behind or something like that, so being only five back gave me a bit of hope. I knew I still had a few par-5s to play and a couple of par-4s you can drive, so I just stayed patient.”
Birdies at the ninth, tenth, 11th, 12th and 15th helped repair the damage and, mainly due to Suri also taking an 8 at the par-4 14th when he held a three-shot cushion, the Scot was tied for the lead with three holes to play. He then made a solid par at the short 16th, hit a brilliant approach at the 17th for a birdie then followed a peach of a drive following a lengthy wait on the last tee with an equally impressive iron shot into the par-5 18th for another birdie.
“I finished it off great,” admitted Gallacher, smiling. “It was not until I saw the board on 16 that I saw that I was tied for the lead. At 16, the wind comes off the right and you’re just trying to get it pin-high to the left, which I did. Then my second into 17 was probably the best shot I’ve hit for years. I was right in between clubs and I just gripped down a little 7-iron and managed to put it to six feet.
“As for my two shots at the last – driver and 4-iron – I just thought to myself that I had played with Matt Wallace last year when he won. I remember what he did in the play-off and my aim was to do the same as him – and it worked.”
A closing 71 for a nine-under-279 total left him a shot ahead of Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura, who was tied with the Scot when he found trouble from the tee at the last, with Spaniard Jorge Campillo one further back. After his late nightmare, Suri ended up joint fourth on six under.
“I am 45 this year and to win again on Tour I am really proud of that,” said Gallacher, who recorded his breakthrough triumph in the 2004 Dunhill Links Championship on home soil before becoming the first player to come out on top back-to-back in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. “It changes my schedule a wee bit, meaning that I can now play a bit less.” The win – a second Scottish success of the 2019 season after David Law’s Vic Open victory in February – earned Gallacher around £225,000, lifting him to 21st in this season’s Race to Dubai. He is also set for a big jump from 355th in the world rankings.
“The good thing for me around here is that I have had good scores and I’ve played well in the wind, so I thought whatever happens today I knew what to expect,” he added. “I’ve had good positive experiences on this golf course. I’ve had three 67s and one of those 67s was in a tough wind, so I knew what holes you need to watch and where to get your pars.”
Adding to Gallacher’s joyous feeling was the fact that his 18-year-old son, Jack, was caddying for him, having taken on that role last year. “It’s great to win with my son on the bag,” he said. “He has caddied for me now in 20-odd events and we’ve had three top tens and a win.” Gallacher picked his club at the 17th after a lengthy discussion with Jack. The youngster also showed great calmness as they faced a lengthy wait on the 18th tee.
“He’s a top lad and a good caddie,” added the winner. “He’s quite chilled, so nothing really bothers him. Jack just kept saying to me out there, ‘just keep doing what you are doing, make sure you have the right club, get the process right, pick your shot and hit it – that’s all you can do’. He was as cool as a cucumber. No problem at all.”
The victory, of course, also came on Mother’s Day, making it a special occasion for Gallacher’s mum, Wilma, back in Bathgate. “It’s a great day for her to see me and her grandson win today, so I am delighted for her. It’s been a great all-round day,” he declared.