Stephen Gallacher makes big climb in Oman as Bradley Neil digs deep

Stephen Gallacher tees off at the 18th hole at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat in the second round of the NBO Oman Open. Picture: Getty Images
Stephen Gallacher tees off at the 18th hole at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat in the second round of the NBO Oman Open. Picture: Getty Images
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Stephen Gallacher produced one of the lowest rounds of the day and Bradley Neil staged an astonishing late fightback to be among six Scots to make it to the weekend in the NBO Oman Open.

As Frenchman Matthieu Pavon moved two shots clear of the field at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat after adding a 65 to his opening 68 to sit on 12-under-par, Gallacher and Neil both bounced back well from sore finishes to their rounds on the first day.

Paul Lawrie was among six Scots to make the cut in the first European Tour event to be held in Oman. Picture: Getty Images

Paul Lawrie was among six Scots to make the cut in the first European Tour event to be held in Oman. Picture: Getty Images

Gallacher had been going along nicely, sitting on two-under, before he followed a bogey at the 15th with a triple-bogey 8 at the next, where the damage was done by a lost ball.

The 43-year-old took his revenge on that hole by making a birdie second time around, taking him to three under for the day after he’d also picked up shots at the 10th, his opening hole, and the 12th.

Gallacher, who is paying his first visit to the sultanate, added two more birdies - at the third and fourth - coming home as he carded a five-under 67, matching the score of playing partner Darren Clarke.

The Scot’s effort saw him jump 72 spots to joint-25th, making it four cuts out of four from him this year after struggling to find that sort consistency last season.

Also on three-under heading into the weekend in the first European Tour event to be held in Oman are Marc Warren and Connor Syme.

Warren carded a 72 that contained three birdies and three bogeys while Syme made an eagle-3 at the third to get to four-under and was still on that mark before dropping a shot at the 17th.

Nonetheless, the 22-year-old will be pleased with his work so far, having made the cut for the first time in five starts since winning his European Tour card at the end of last year.

A bogey-bogey finish would have left a bad taste in David Drysdale’s mouth at dinner, especially after he’d picked up four shots in the previous 16 holes.

However, he still progressed comfortably on two-under, with Neil and Paul Lawrie also making it into the final 36 holes on one-under and level-par respectively.

Neil, who won his European Tour card on this course back in November, had been four-under with five holes to play on the opening day before dropping six shots in four holes.

The 22-year-old then started his second round with a double-bogey 6 at the 10th on this Greg Norman-designed course and had slipped to five-over for the tournament after beginning his back nine with a bogey.

But he then went birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie to give himself a chance of staying in the event, which he duly did by picking up further shots at the seventh and ninth.

Neil had covered his last eight holes in seven-under to come home in 30 as he signed for a 69.

It was a truly remarkable effort from the Blairgowrie player and spoke volumes for having such a positive attitude, which he displayed when talking about “never giving up” in a social post after his first round.

“Pretty incredible,” Neil told The Scotsman. “I was obviously annoyed after the finish yesterday. Nothing was going my way, to be honest, so I had to create my own luck.

“After the bogey on my 10th hole, I just completely opened up and played aggressive. I played the way I did the first 13 holes yesterday.

“It has to be the most impressive comeback I’ve ever recorded in tournament golf. After following a birdie at 2 with an eagle at 3, where I hit a 7-iron from 210 yards to six feet, that’s when I thought that I could do this.

“To still go and do it is unbelievable, though. A lot of things had to happen and they did. Now I’ve just got to take all that into the weekend.”

Lawrie, who was quick to praise Neil for his “great comeback”, had a frustrating day on the greens earlier in the day as he signed for a 73. “Hit it really good but putted woeful,” said the Aberdonian on Twitter.

Pavon, who finished 49th in last season’s Race to Dubai in his first year on the European Tour, made his best-of-the-day score in the second round by covering the front nine in 31, five-under.

The 25-year-old leads from Englishman Matt Southgate, who was also on 11-under before he finished with a double-bogey 6, with two other players from south of the Border, Chris Wood and Paul Waring, a shot further back in joint-third.

Steven Troup, who hails from Portlethen but is now a teaching professional based in Oman, finished on 16-over after rounds of 77 and 83 on his European Tour debut.