LOTHIANS star Stephen Gallacher made a promising start to the European Tour’s Middle East Swing with a two-under-par 70 in the £1.6 million HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship.
It left him sitting just inside the top 20, three off the overnight lead, after an opening round in which Spanish star Sergio Garcia branded the rough as “dangerous”.
“I wouldn’t say it was dangerous,” replied Gallacher to hearing that remark, made by Garcia after he’d hurt his shoulder trying to muscle a shot out of the rough in Wednesday’s pro-am.
“If you’ve got a sore shoulder, you shouldn’t be greedy and just try to knock it forward and take your medicine,” added the Bathgate player.
“With all the rain they’ve had here recently, the rough is thicker than in the past but it’s just a tough course – simple as that. Where you are hitting drives can be as narrow as 25-30 yards and generally on an angle.”
Gallacher dropped a shot at his third – the short 12th – but then covered the remaining 15 holes in a splendid three-under. “I’ll take that to start with,” he admitted, feeling more comfortable in the conditions in the UAE than he did in the humidity of Durban last week for the Volvo Golf Champions. “I played well on my front nine, then hit only hit one fairway on the back but managed to shoot one-under on it.”
It was a baptism of fire for Bonnyrigg-based Jamie McLeary in his first taste of the three Middle East events that have become a feature of the European Tour’s early-season schedule.
He signed for a six-over 78 – two better than Paul Lawrie – and admitted he’d found it a lot more difficult than he’d become accustomed to on the Challenge Tour. “It’s a tough test out there, especially when you’ve not played much recently and also been suffering from a bout of food poisoning earlier in the week and not had much sleep,” said McLeary.
“There are very few tournaments I’ve played where the rough is as brutal as that. It’s not just the rough but the length of the course as you’ve got no chance of reaching the green with a 5 or 6-iron from the rough.
“I didn’t drive or putt well – in fact, no part of my game was very good.”
McLeary was playing with Simon Dyson as the Englishman made his first Tour appearance since being hit with a suspended two-month ban.
“I didn’t speak to him that much but he seemed fine and is a very good player,” noted the former Scottish Hydro Challenge winner. In the early stages of today’s second round, Stirling’s Craig Lee had moved into a share of the lead on six-under.