Michael Stewart relishing test against DP World Tour winners in Abu Dhabi Challenge
Gallacher led the way among eight Scots with a three-under-par 69 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where Englishman Tom Lewis set the pace with a scintillating 64 that contained an impressive haul of nine birdies.
Drysdale and Stewart both signed for 70s in an event that includes no less than 19 former DP World Tour winners with a combined 46 top-tier title triumphs between them.
“There are Ryder Cup players, guys who’ve won multiple times on tour and guys who won recently on tour but are now back here on the Challenge Tour,” noted Stewart of what is almost certainly the strongest-ever field on the DP World Tour’s feeder circuit.
“It’s great testing yourself against these players. It’s not very often that you’re going to get to test yourself against these guys on the Challenge Tour at such a great venue.”
In his first outing on the circuit in nearly 25 years, Gallacher signed for six birdies to sit in a tie for 12th at a venue he knows well from playing it a number of times in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the main tour.
“It was playing quite tough actually as it was windy in the afternoon,” said the four-time DP World Tour winner. “Yeah, happy enough with that. Putted well and just had one bad hole, really, as I took a double at the fifth. Apart from that, I could have shot five under and it would have been right in the mix.”
Drysdale, who has been playing on the Asian Tour in recent weeks, is also back competing on the Challenge Tour after joining Gallacher in losing their card on the top tour at the end of last season.
“It’s not where any of us want to be,” he said of the posse of well-known names teeing up in the first Challenge Tour to be staged in Abu Dhabi, where the second-leg of a double-header takes place next week at Saadiyat Links. “But we are here and it’s an amazing golf course to have a Challenge Tour event on and next week will be as well.”
Stewart, a Challenge Tour rookie this season, was pleased with his day’s work on a course he knows well from Scottish Golf winter camps in the UAE. “It is actually playing a bit friendlier than I remember it,” said the Ayrshireman. “There was a bit more rough just off the fairway in terms of the height of it and the greens were quicker and firmer. It is actually really nice for it be playing what feels like a bit more scorable.”
On a day when two-time DP World Tour winner Lewis, secured a one-shot lead over compatriot Joshua Grenville-Wood and Frenchman Julien Sale with his hot start, Craig Howie, Louis Gaughan and Ryan Lumsden all carded matching 72s.
But, after struggling to rounds of 75 and 80, Euan Walker and Liam Johnston, the two Scots to taste success on the circuit last season, are both in danger of making an early exit.
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