STEPHEN Gallacher is ready to launch his bid to join an exclusive club of European Tour hat-trick winners with a new driver in the bag after discovering it can keep him in the same big-hitting league as Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson.
The 40-year-old was using a TaylorMade SLDR when he out-drove world No 1 McIlroy on numerous occasions as they played together in the Abu Dhabi Invitational at Yas Links on Sunday.
But he had the company’s new R15 model in his hands for yesterday’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic Challenge Match over the back nine of the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club and was booming that just as far as Stenson, too, as the pair triumphed in the fun event.
“I had a long TrackMan session yesterday with the R15 and the TaylorMade guy took all the numbers and sent them to my coach, Alan McCloskey,” said Gallacher in his press conference as the defending champion in the “Major of the Middle East” for the second year in a row.
“He phoned me last night to say the numbers were brilliant so I’ll play with it today and, if it goes well today and tomorrow in the pro-am, then I’ll put it straight in the bag. It’s nothing new because the last two years I’ve won here with totally different drivers.
“This is the time of year they launch the new driver and I’ve won with the R1 and SLDR. So it would not phase me putting the R15 in because the numbers are saying the swing speed is a bit faster and it also goes a bit further. In the modern game, the further you hit it, the shorter the iron, the better percentage you have of making birdies.”
Only five players in European Tour history have lifted the same title on three successive occasions – Ian Woosnam (1990-92 Monte Carlo Open), Nick Faldo (1991-93 Irish Open), Colin Montgomerie (1998-2000 PGA Championship), Tiger Woods (1999-01, 2005-07 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and 2005-07 WGC-Cadillac Championship) and Ernie Els (2002-04 Heineken Classic).
To join them, Gallacher will have to overcome the world’s top two, McIlroy and Stenson, as well as the likes of Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell, but the Bathgate man is taking the challenge in his stride and, in fact, is relishing it. “I’m going to approach it the same as last year, not try to put too much pressure on myself and just go ahead and enjoy it,” he said. “Hopefully come Sunday, I’m in position to give it a good go. My plan is to try to not put myself under any pressure. I mean, I’d love to make it three in a row, don’t get me wrong. To win last year on the 25th anniversary was special, with the field and with the history behind it.
“It’s a course I play well, so I’m hoping to just not think too much about it and just get on and play golf. You get certain places where everything seems to click for you, and I certainly feel good coming here.”