Stephen Gallacher 'delighted' with gutsy start to 25th European Tour season

Stephen Gallacher started his 25th season on the European Tour by showing he’s lost none of the fight in his belly in a career nudging close to 600 appearances.

Stephen Gallacher tees off on the fifth hole in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images.

The 46-year-old put himself through a gamut of emotions as he carded a three-under-par 69 in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi Championship to sit in a tie for tenth behind leader Rory McIlroy.

Gallacher, a two-time Omega Dubai Desert Classic winner, started the new season with a birdie before picking up further shots at the fourth and fifth to be out in 33.

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That good work was then undone by a 6-6 start to the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, but, in a gutsy recovery, he showed real character to birdie the 13th, 15th and 17th.

“I got off to a good start and just hit two poor shots on the same hole that kind of knocked me back a wee bit when I was looking to go forward rather than dropping down,” said the Hero Indian Open champion afterwards.

“But I am delighted with the way I finished. I just missed a chance at the last, but I’ll take three under after throwing it away but then managing to get it back, especially after not playing for six weeks.”

Gallacher’s first season on the European Tour was back in 1996 and he’s had a seat at the top table every year since then apart from 1998, when he played on the Challenge Tour.

“I have been practising hard, even in the frost, at Kingsfield,” he said of his preparations for the start of the new campaign. “I came out to Dubai a week past Monday, which I think has paid off.

“I did some testing with Titleist for three days at the Els Club, making sure all the equipment is right, which is very important, and also working with a new ball. I think that has proved worthwhile.

“It’s nothing major, just a couple of tweaks how clubs are set up. But it’s good to know you have the right kit at the start of the year and can get it cemented in.

“It’s an on-going assessment you are doing and I feel the bag of clubs and ball are great, so there are no excuses.”

Asked how he manages any changes at this stage in his career, he added: “I still like paying. You can only prepare to do well and prepare to win. Prepare to be coming down the stretch and, if it happens it happens, but you still need a wee bit of luck.

“As long as you can get to the end of the week and feel you have got everything you can out of it, that’s all you can ask for.”

Playing alongside Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, Bob MacIntyre recovered from being three-over after seven holes to sign for a level-par 72, with David Drysdale (73) and Richie Ramsay (74) the other Scots to get finished.

Out of the five others facing a return on Friday morning for the resumption of the opening circuit, Grant Forrest is the best-placed on two-under after six holes.

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