The Open: Stephen Gallacher subdued but positive

Stephen Gallacher tees off at the fourth yesterday on his way to a 68 and a 15th-place finish in The Open. Picture: Warren Little
Stephen Gallacher tees off at the fourth yesterday on his way to a 68 and a 15th-place finish in The Open. Picture: Warren Little
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HE NEITHER looked nor spoke like a man who’d just recorded his best finish in a major. In fairness to Stephen Gallacher, though, that is perfectly understandable.

For starters, he is still coming to terms with the death of Bob Torrance, his long-time coach. Hearing that sad news in the middle of the event hurt him emotionally and, naturally, it showed.

Another reason that the 39-year-old was perhaps less expansive than normal in his post-round chats with the Scottish scribes is the looming Ryder Cup.

Gallacher knows how tantalisingly close he is to securing a spot on Paul McGinley’s team for September’s match at Gleneagles – even more so after this top-15 effort.

He can’t be blamed, though, for trying to keep a lid on things as far as that career goal is concerned. He performed better here than the likes of Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Joost Luiten. Ian Poulter, too, though it seems inconceivable that he won’t be in that team after his heroics at Medinah.

Gallacher will know that. He also knows, though, that there are two more big events looming on the horizon – the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Akron and the last major of the season, the US PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Any of the aforementioned players are capable of doing something in those events that could change either the race for automatic spots or McGinley’s thinking over his three wild cards.

“I am not too bothered about who I finished above, it’s just where you finish and I’ll take top 15 in a major,” said the double Dubai Desert Classic champion after signing off with a four-under 68 to finish joint 15th on eight-under.

“This has been my best finish in the Open as well, so I’m delighted. It’s just been about carrying on with the way I have been playing. I’ve been doing well this year. I have managed quite a few breakthroughs and it’s always good to have another at The Open.

“It’s more Ryder Cup points and, although I wasn’t really thinking about it, it all helps go towards it.”

Two more performances like this one in that WGC event then the USPGA – his previous best major finish came when he was 18th in that in 2010 – would just about do the trick, surely.

“This is where I want to be,” he said of being involved at the business end in these events. “I’m confident going into the WGC because I feel comfortable about it. I played Firestone last year and I’ll know more about the pin positions and so on.

“It’s about being more familiar out there and I’ve done pretty well in the PGA a couple of times. I’m looking forward to these events.”

The same goes for a family holiday to New York later this week with his wife, Helen, and their children, Jack and Ellie. “We’ll be doing all the touristy stuff, the Statue of Liberty, Empire State, you name it, I’ll have my baseball cap on!” he said, smiling.

Gallacher’s final salvo at Hoylake was lit up by three birdies in the last five holes. A 3-iron from 220 yards to three feet set up one of them at the 17th.

“It was a good round and I was delighted with the way I hung in there at the end,” admitted the Lothians man.

“I love links golf and I’ve been delighted with my week.”

One ahead of Gallacher at the start, Marc Warren finished seven shots behind his compatriot after a closing 76. A double-bogey 6 wasn’t the start he’d hoped for. After hardly putting a foot wrong in eight links rounds prior to this one, it was one of those days when nothing really came off for the 33-year-old.

“That was the best I could have shot and that’s the one positive I’ll take from it because I played terribly all day,” he reflected.

“I don’t know how many greens I hit, six or something, that’s not good enough.

“The day started with a shocking club off the first tee and it steadily got worse from there.

“I just wasn’t hitting anything straight or out the middle of the club. So I was basically standing over every shot not knowing where it was going.”

Having finished third in the Scottish Open then got himself into the final few groups in only his second appearance in this event, Warren is certainly going in the right direction again, though.

“It’s still great to be here at the final day of The Open and play in one of the last groups,” added the two-times European Tour winner, who will also be in the USPGA Championship line-up after finishing 12th in that event last year.

“The crowds were great, It’s a different noise here when you hit a good shot – or today when my playing partner hit a good shot! It was a great experience and I enjoyed it as much as I could.”