Record-equalling 64 gives Stephen Gallacher chance to climb rankings

STEPHEN Gallacher is aiming to make a big jump up the world rankings this weekend after producing the lowest score of the second round, a course-record equalling 64, to storm into contention in the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions event in Bahrain.

The 36-year-old started with five straight birdies - one fewer than co-leader Edoardo Molinari managed earlier in the day - before adding four more, with the Scot's only mistake coming at the 429-yard 18th, his ninth, where he dropped a shot for the second round running. The eight-under-par effort moved Gallacher into a tie for fifth on ten-under, one shot behind Scottish Open and Johnnie Walker champion Molinari (65), Ryder Cup players Miguel Angel Jimenez (65) and Peter Hanson (67), as well as Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin (65).

"I got off to a good start today and holed the putts that weren't going in yesterday," said Gallacher, one of five Scots to progress to the final two rounds at The Royal Golf Club. "I was eating my breakfast this morning when I saw that Molinari had started with six birdies, so I knew a good score was on. After spending six weeks in the snow at home, last week (his first appearance of the year] was a bit of a culture shock playing in short sleeves. But I'm getting more in the way of it again now."

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Currently 89th in the world rankings, Gallacher is hoping to climb at least 25 places by the end of the four-event Middle East Swing, which has Qatar and Dubai to come after this week. "I'm looking for two more good rounds to contend," he added. "It would be a good field to beat and would give me plenty of ranking points in my bid to get into the top 64 for the WGC World Matchplay." Richie Ramsay bagged four birdies in a flawless 68 and is in a tie for 44th on four-under, one ahead of Gary Orr (70), Paul Lawrie (73) and Colin Montgomerie, the course designer ensuring he made the cut with a 69 that included five birdies.

Less enjoyable for the former Ryder Cup captain, though, was surely the criticism aimed at him by Ian Poulter over the greens he designed.

On his Twitter site, Poulter, a member of Montgomerie's winning Ryder Cup side, told the absent Lee Westwood that he should have joined him and Rory McIlroy in having a week off. "Schoolboy error playing," he wrote. "Apparently the Architect wanted to make a statement with the greens. He did that all right. Simply the WORST greens I have ever seen & I'm not joking. They are embarrassing."

They didn't make the outspoken Englishman miss the cut, however, firing a 69 to stand alongside Montgomerie, but among those in a better position to put in a title challenge in the 1.4 million event are Darren Clarke and Paul Casey, who shot 65 and 67 respectively, to join Gallacher and South African James Kingston on ten-under.