Stephen Gallacher focused on Hazeltine

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THE mini-kilt is probably a no-no. If Stephen Gallacher makes the next Ryder Cup, though, he is hoping he will have a physique to give him the confidence to take his shirt off for a photograph with Rory McIlroy.

One of the most bizzare images to appear from Europe’s Ryder Cup celebrations at Gleneagles Hotel on Sunday night was of a topless McIlroy wearing a mini-kilt and a red wig as he stood beside a fully-clothed Gallacher.

It was an inevitable topic when the pair appeared in the media centre at St Andrews yesterday on the eve of the Dunhill Links Championship, with McIlroy, to his credit, admitting he could remember little of how it had come about. “Honestly, I don’t remember,” said the world No 1 smiling. “The timeline sort of gets fuzzy about midnight.”

Sitting in the same chair shortly afterwards, Gallacher was unable to throw much light either on where the kilt and wig had come from, but confessed he had been sober enough to know it would have been a big mistake to have stripped off himself. “If I had a body like that,” he said of McIlroy’s toned frame, “I wouldn’t have a top on… I need a jumper and tee-shirt.”

From that, you will gather that Gallacher is not one of golf’s gym rats. Never has been, in fact. As part of his bid to be on the European team again at Hazeltine in two years’ time, though, thatis about to change. “I’m starting to do some fitness and gym work soon because I’m getting to the ripe old age of 40 [on 1 November] and you start to deteriorate muscles, so I need to try to build myself up,” he said. “So the next picture with a kilt on, I’ll probably have my top off.”

He was joking – well, maybe – but Gallacher is totally serious about giving his all in an effort to be on the team defending the little gold trophy in Minnesota. Spending time with McIlroy and the other members of Paul McGinley’s side at Gleneagles has given him a fresh perspective about what he can change as he bids to cement his place in the all-important world top 50.

“I’m going to try to peak at better times because there’s a few mistakes I made this year,” admitted the double Dubai Desert Classic champion.

“I was peaking at the Scottish Open and The Open and, by the time I got to Firestone [for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational] and the US PGA, I was running on empty. So I’m going to watch what I’m going to do with regard to playing before and after the majors next year. Maybe go out play the week before and then take the week off after because the big events take so much out of you both mentally and physically. I spoke to a few boys last week and got their take on that sort of thing.”

During two days “chilling out” at home in Linlithgow, Gallacher received a text message from McGinley. It was hugely complimentary of the Scot and highlighted the role he played in Perthshire, even though he was unable to make a tangible contribution in his two games.

Having seen his lifetime dream come true at Gleneagles, Gallacher was asked if he now had a new one? “To play in it again,” he replied. “I don’t know how you can replicate the sort of level of intensity or the level of excitement. Standing on the first tee playing against Phil Mickelson on Sunday was something that will live with me forever and, just speaking to the lads after it, you just cannot wait to get back into a Ryder Cup again.”

Gallacher, of course, made his European Tour breakthrough in the Dunhill Links a decade ago. Sir Martyn Arbib, his playing partner then, is similarly involved again as the Lothians man starts a final phase of the season that involves the Volvo World Match Play and, for the first time, the Nedbank Challenge in Sun City.

“I think the hard thing this week is not running out of energy, but I like the format, have got a great partner and know the courses, so I’m looking forward to it,” said the world No 34.