Stephen Gallacher flying high in Turkish Airlines Open

Stephen Gallacher on his way to a six-under-par 65 in the second round of the Turkish Airlines Open. Picture: Getty Images
Stephen Gallacher on his way to a six-under-par 65 in the second round of the Turkish Airlines Open. Picture: Getty Images
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Stephen Gallacher equalled his best round of the season with a 65 to move into contention at the halfway stage in the $7 million Turkish Airlines Open.

If Nicolas Colsaerts maintains the form that has seen him card back-to-back 64s to lead by four shots, the Belgian will be hard to catch over the weekend on the Regnum Carya course.

But Gallacher, for one, is delighted to be in the chasing pack after seeing some positive instant signs from deciding to weaken his right-hand grip coming into the opening Final Series event.

The newly-turned 43-year-old has negotiated the first 36 holes without a bogey to sit joint-fourth after backing up Thursday’s confidence-boosting 69 with an impressive card containing six birdies.

“Two weeks ago I definitely didn’t think I’d be able to go around a course like this bogey-free,” admitted Gallacher, who, on eight-under, sits six shots behind pacesetter Colsaerts.

“All you have to do in this game really is make your bad shots better as your good ones are as good as anyone else.

“I’ve been struggling with a damaging left shot all my days. I think it’s part of growing up in Scotland and you have to keep the ball down on the links and turn it. I’ve always been fighting left and it gets to a stage where it gets worse.

“I’ve tried everything to get rid of that shot and now it’s been a case of taking the bull by the horns by weakening my right-hand grip.

“Alan (McCloskey, his coach) said it was the right thing to do as it helps everything but also said it wouldn’t be easy to do.

“It feels terrible over the ball but you know that’s a good thing. I will probably need the whole winter for it to feel natural.

“When I don’t get one right now it’s a wee bit short on the right. With a bad one to the left, it doesn’t stop until it’s in water, a bunker or some trees. I am just trying to eliminate that left shot.”

Sitting 78th in the Race to Dubai, Gallacher only just scraped into this event on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast but two more good rounds can not only get him into next week’s Nedbank Challenge in South Africa but also the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

“I came here thinking that if I hit enough good shots to give me the encouragement to work on it over the winter, then I would have been happy,” he added.

“I practised well last week. In fact, I hit it pretty good from the word go and Alan couldn’t quite believe it. You never like standing over a shot feeling uncomfortable but give Alan his due as we worked really hard last week.

“He’s massive on the fundamentals anyway so he knew this was what I needed to do. It is just taking a chance to do it now.

“I’ve given myself a lot of chances over the last two days and the difference today to yesterday was that I holed a few putts.

“I three-putted one of the par-5s on the front nine for a par but made up for that by holing a 30-footer at the 15th. I think I’ve only missed three greens in two days.”

Gallacher’s 65 matched the same score in second round of Omega European Masters in Switzerland in September.

He best finish this season is tied for ninth in Omega Dubai Desert Classic back in February but he’s had three top-15s, including the British Masters and Dunhill Links, in the final few weeks of the regular part of the season.

“Yeah, but we are only at halfway,” said the three-time European Tour winner in reply to being asked if he was excited heading into the final two rounds.

“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.

“It is only small steps but I am playing well enough that I will be sticking with it under the pressure of being in the mix at the weekend.

“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.

“The grip is the same for all the clubs. I’ve also changed it a bit with my putter, so it’s right through the bag.”

Richie Ramsay, who sits 24th in the Race to Dubai, covered the front nine in three-under 31 as he carded a 68 to jump up 15 spots into a share of 27th spot.

“It was a walk in the park today but that’s the worst I could’ve scored. And I three-putted the last,” said the Aberdonian, who sits 24th in the Race to Dubai.

“There was a sense of déjà vu. I was grazing the edges with my putts and it’s just that common curse of Scottish golfers.

“The longest putt I holed all day was from 13 feet. I’m rolling them nicely but it’s small margins and it’s frustrating seeing guys shoot six or seven under and I should be doing that, too.

“If you have one really good season of chipping and putting on the Tour, you can double your money.”

The leading Scot after his opening 68, David Drysdale had picked up a shot before he ran up a double-bogey 6 at the tough 10th and eventually signed for a two-over 73 to sit tied for 38th.

Marc Warren (70) is a shot further back in joint-46th while Scott Jamieson lies joint-71st on five-over after a 74.

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.

Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood sits 13 shots off the lead after rounds of 70 and 71, with last year’s Open champion Henrik Stenson even futher back on two-over.