Stephen Gallacher battling through pain in bid to secure Open invitation

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STEPHEN Gallacher’s desire to play in the Open Championship at Muirfield next July has led to the Lothians player adding an extra event to his end-of-season schedule at a time when he could be forgiven for sitting at home with his feet up waiting for a leg operation.

Lying 36th in the Race to Dubai – he needs to finish in the top 30 to earn a Muirfield exemption – Gallacher has secured an invitation for this week’s Barclays Singapore Open. He’ll need to battle the pain barrier in the $6 million event at Sentosa, though, as Gallacher has torn a cartilage in his knee and is booked in for surgery at the end of this month – straight after the season-ending Dubai World Championship.

“I went to see my surgeon last Thursday (his 38th birthday) to see if I could get a cortisone injection to help me get through until the end of the season,” he told The Scotsman. “But he said that wouldn’t work for a torn meniscus and that it could also affect the surgery, which I’m booked in for on 30 November. “It’s been a problem I’ve had all year. I hurt it in Dubai (in February) and got an MRI scan when I came back from there. I was told it was just wear and tear, but it has flared up a few times now. It appears that the ripped cartilage is irritating the knee and causing a build-up of fluid.” Having finished in the top six in his last two events – the Dunhill Links and Portugal Masters – Gallacher has given himself a good chance of an Open invitation, though he’s probably going to have to get by without much practice over the next few weeks. “I hurt the knee again in Portugal – it was really bad there,” he added. “I got another MRI scan and I’ve been told that I’ve got a tear in my cartilage and need an operation. I’m going to get that straight after the Dubai World Championship. It will be a four to six-week recovery and I want to be ready to play in Abu Dhabi at the end of January.

“I was already in the field for next week’s Hong Kong Open and Stoddy (his manager, Iain Stoddart) has pulled off a great one by managing to get me an invitation for Singapore this week as there’s major money up for grabs. If I can even have a half decent week, it will be a real boost in my bid to finish in the top 30 in the Race to Dubai and secure a spot at the Open. That’s why I’m keeping myself going. I’ve only hit balls once since Portugal, but I’m feeling fresh heading into three big events.”

While Paul Lawrie has returned home for his book launch – he’s signing copies in Aberdeen tomorrow night – Gallacher will have Colin Montgomerie, Richie Ramsay and Ross Bain, who gets into the co-sanctioned event through his Asian Tour rankings, for company in Singapore.