Illness break could prove a blessing for Stephen Gallacher

stephen Gallacher still isn’t firing on all cylinders but is hoping a break enforced by illness will prove a blessing in disguise when he makes his return in this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Fourth in the European Tour’s flagship event two years ago, the 37-year-old hasn’t played competitively since being forced to withdraw during the Spanish Open in Seville just over a fortnight ago, suffering from a chest infection and sinusitis. “I’m still not 100 per cent and have been coughing now for three weeks,” said Gallacher. “But I’ve been for an X-ray and had other tests done and it’s nothing more than a bad infection. I still feel a bit hot and sweaty so I’ll need to try and not overdo things.”

Until yesterday, when he played a practice round at Wentworth along with Peter Whiteford and David Patrick, the only game of golf Gallacher had played since the event in Spain was at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian along with a former Celtic manager. “I’m a member there now and had a game last Wednesday with wee Gordon Strachan, which was good fun,” he added. Gallacher has already chalked up two runner-up finishes this season – one in Dubai and the other in Malaysia – and is hoping to use the Wentworth event as the launchpad for more title-challenging performances in some of the biggest events of the season.

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“This is the first time I’ve been hit by an illness in a couple of years and I’m glad I’m getting it out of the way now rather than being hit with it this week or during some of the other events that are coming up,” said the former Dunhill Links champion.

“This week’s event is one of those you want to do well in and if I can have a good tournament in the next four or five weeks that would get me up the world rankings and perhaps get me into the remaining three majors this season.”

The forthcoming US Open in San Francisco is the first of those and Gallacher is in the field for next Monday’s qualifier at Walton Heath. “That’s a course I really like and it’s the same at Wentworth, especially after the changes that have been made there in recent years,” he said.

“It’s now more in tune with the modern game and they’ve made another change to the 18th this year. They’ve flattened down the landing area, while a big tree on the right near the green came down in a storm over the winter so that means it will be easier to draw a shot into the green.”

As reported in The Scotsman last week, former Walker Cup player Patrick has secured his debut in the Wentworth event as a replacement for fellow PGA pro Paul Wesselingh, who has decided to play instead in the US Senior Championship, which also starts on Thursday.