It is difficult enough for Stephen Gallacher to be feeling uncomfortable standing over every shot in the Turkish Airlines Open due to his new weakened grip. Add in the fact he was on the verge of not playing at all due to damaging ankle ligaments jumping off a buggy earlier in the week and he’s doing remarkably well to be in the mix at the halfway stage at the Regnum Carya course in Belek.
“I’m strapped up like you wouldn’t believe and also taking tablets. In fact, I had my bags packed on Thursday morning,” revealed Gallacher after reaching the halfway stage in the opening Final Series event without a bogey in 36 holes and sitting joint fourth, albeit six shots behind Nicolas Colsaerts after the Belgian spreadeagled the field with back-to-back 64s.
“I was for the off – I wasn’t going to play. I jumped out of a buggy around 5pm on Wednesday to go and hit some putts and went over on my right ankle. I woke up the next morning and it was both swollen and bruised. It’s a bad sprain. The tendons are a bit inflamed and bruised. But Dingers [European Tour physio Ian Dingwall] strapped it. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be playing. He sorted me out.”
Gallacher’s second-round 65 equalled his best round of the season, with the pick of his six birdies coming at the 505-yard par-4 10th. “That was a brilliant one as it a proper golf hole,” said the newly-turned 43-year-old, smiling. “It’s a toughy, but I hit a great drive then a lovely 6-iron to 10 feet and rolled it in.”
Sitting 78th in the Race to Dubai, the three-time European Tour just scraped into this event, but more of the same over the next two days will definitely get him into next week’s Nedbank Challenge and perhaps even the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai as well. That decision to make a fundamental change to his grip thanks to being sent John Jacobs’ Practical Golf tuition book by his uncle Bernard has really made some difference.
“A lot can still happen over the next 36 holes, but it has given me a lot of encouragement that I have done the right thing by deciding to weaken my right-hand grip before coming out here,” said Gallacher. “It is only small steps, but I’m delighted to be in this position as it shows that what I am doing is right. It gives you confidence. There are four or five really tough holes out here and it’s playing those holes better that makes your score.”
Back in the sort of form that earned him a Ryder Cup wild card in 2012, Colsaerts has carded an eagle and 13 birdies so far in spreadeagling the field. Englishman Eddie Pepperell leads the chase after two 66s, with 2015 Paul Lawrie Match Play winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat a further shot back in third. Two more English players, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Matthew Southgate, are alongside Gallacher on 134, as is Irishman Shane Lowry.
“I always feel like it’s pretty close because I feel like I’m good enough to do decent showings in big events and on regular occasions throughout the year,” said Colsaerts, whose last European Tour title came in the Volvo World Match Play Championship in 2012. “It’s just little things that have to click together. We all know there are a lot of guys who can win four or five times a year and don’t for a couple of years. As long as I keep my head straight and put myself in a good position I’d like to think I can land a few more wins.”
Fitzpatrick eagled the 15th, where he joined forces with three of his compatriots, Southgate, Ian Poulter and Tyrrell Hatton, the previous night to set a new Guinness World Record for the fastest par-5 hole by a team of four with a time of 32.70 seconds, beating the 34.87 seconds set by a French quartet at Valderrama last year. “It’s quite cool having a world record,” declared Fitzpatrick.