Stephen Gallacher normally steers clear of the golf tuition books in his library, but he’s glad that he couldn’t resist the temptation to read one sent to him by his uncle Bernard.
The newly-turned 43-year-old believes one thing in particular in Practical Golf, an iconic book written by the late John Jacobs, is the key to him getting back to being competitive again on the European Tour and the early indications are certainly positive.
In his first competitive outing with a new weakened grip, Gallacher was bogey-free on the Regnum Carya course in Belek as he opened with a two-under-par 69 in the $7 million Turkish Airlines Open. That may have seemed insignificant compared to the 64s posted by Dutchman Joost Luiten, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and South African Haydn Porteous as they set the pace in the opening Final Series event, but it has definitely put a spring to Gallacher’s step.
Since being forced to change his swing following wrist surgery last year, the three-time European Tour winner had been struggling to get any real consistency and, for most of this season, has been fighting a damaging pull off the tee. There was no sign of that shot, though, in his first circuit here and that was down to the big change he decided to make after receiving the book from his uncle and former Ryder Cup. “I’ve got a lot of books, but I am dangerous when I read books. That’s why I stick to fiction rather than golf tuition,” said Gallacher. “The reason Bernard sent me this one was that when Butch Harmon spoke at John Jacobs’ funeral he said that everything he ever learned about the golf swing was out of John Jacobs’ book. So Bernard, pictured, said he’d buy it for me.
“I was already thinking about going back to fundamentals, having also had a look at Bob Torrance’s book. The golf swing hasn’t changed that much over the years. It’s the technology that has changed. Everything I’m trying to do is easier with a weak grip, even though it is a big change. I know that this way is going to allow me to enjoy my golf more again. We worked really hard on it last week and today has definitely given me a lot of confidence as you can only really find out about something when you are under pressure on the course.
“Once I said to my coach, Alan McCloskey, that I needed to weaken my right-hand grip, he said it was the answer as it has given me more loft, which is what I’ve been trying to do all my days. Everything comes down to fundamentals and that’s one of the main reasons I work with Alan as he is big on fundamentals. It’s about balance, set up, things that get overlooked.
“Tiger Woods, for instance, used to talk about how he’d take a couple of months off to go back to basics. If you don’t grip it right, don’t set up right or get a right ball position, then you are going to be aiming all over the shop. It definitely helps and I will be aiming to get everything regimented and nailed down over the winter.”
Gallacher’s opening effort left him a shot behind compatriot David Drysdale, who was two-over after six before coming home in 30.
“I’ve actually had a few rounds like that recently,” said Drysdale, who is sitting 48th in the Race to Dubai and is hoping to be in the top 30 at the end of the Final Series as that would get him into next year’s Open at Carnoustie. “I started poorly in the final round in the Dunhill, hitting it into the water at the first at St Andrews to start with a double-bogey, but ended up shooting three or four-under. That was lack of concentration because two amateur partners were taking forever. Here, I just stayed patient, didn’t lose the rag.”
Drysdale has held some sort of category on the European Tour since 2002 and has held on to his full card for nine years in a row through finishing inside the Race to Dubai cut-off. His current position matches his best-ever finish in 2009 and the Cockburnspath man has certainly not given up hope that he might yet land that elusive first title victory before he’s done and dusted.
“Best years to come? Maybe,” he said, smiling. “It’s a strange game. It’s like a Scottish thing at the moment. It doesn’t seem like there are any young lads but hopefully there’s a few coming through. Hopefully we get some 20 somethings coming on to the tour. You can’t put your finger on why some make it and some don’t. You may have had Bradley Neil making it instantly but he’s taking a couple of years. It’s tough though.”
On a day when Richie Ramsay signed for a “solid” 71 and Marc Warren and Scott Jamieson had 72 and 73 respectively, three-time major winner Padraig Harrington revealed he is eyeing a Ryder Cup return at the age of 47 after opening with a 65 – his lowest score of the year.
“The reason I’m here is because if you win one of these two events [he’s also playing in next week’s Nedbank Challenge in South Africa], it puts you right there for the Ryder Cup,” said the Irishman, who has not played in the Ryder Cup since 2010. “It would kind of be in your hands if you got a good start like that.”
Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood dropped a shot at the last for a 71 while playing partners Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson signed for 69 and 73 respectively. Rose, who won the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China last weekend to climb to world No 6, recovered from double-bogey 5 at the second. Stenson, last year’s Open champion, also dropped two shots there before snapping the shaft of his 9-iron as he played a shot from the base of tree later in the round.