Golf: Stephen Gallacher eyes return to glory in Dubai

Lothians golfer Stephen Gallacher hopes it will all click at the Majlis Course this week. Pic: Getty
Lothians golfer Stephen Gallacher hopes it will all click at the Majlis Course this week. Pic: Getty
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Stephen Gallacher is hoping a return to his happiest hunting ground in golf can produce the “spark” to re-ignite his career.

The Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club has produced two Omega Dubai Desert Classic wins for the Lothians star in the last three years.

Stephen Gallacher has claimed the Dubai Desert Classic twice. Pic: Getty

Stephen Gallacher has claimed the Dubai Desert Classic twice. Pic: Getty

His liking for the course is further illustrated by second and third-place finishes on the desert layout either side of those historic back-to-back victories in 2013 and 2014.

On recent form – he missed the cut in both Abu Dhabi and Qatar in the opening two events on the Desert Swing – Gallacher’s hopes of contending here again would appear to be slim.

But the 41-year-old is hoping that so many good memories, which include a win after playing with Rory McIlroy, the world No 1 at the time, in three out of four rounds, can bring out the best in him again in the $2.65m event.

“Coming here is like coming to your home club,” he told the Evening News. “I often visit here outwith the tournament and I know everyone at the club. I played the course a couple of times before Abu Dhabi and it’s great to be back here. (Head greenkeeper) Craig Haldane and his team do an unbelievable job setting it up and getting it to a level that you can’t not enjoy playing.

“I think the weather first and foremost has helped me do well here. It’s not humid and it is generally breezy, which suited my game when I first came here. Since then it’s always been a place that I feel I can play well on.

“You get some courses where you have to work harder to get round and change strategy, but that’s certainly not the case with me here. This is a course where I know exactly what I am going to do.”

He’s a combined 71-under-par for his last 16 rounds here and is quietly confident, therefore, that this event is the one that can turnaround his fortunes, which have dipped since a Ryder Cup appearance at Gleneagles just over 15 months ago.

“I’m not panicking at all as I know what golf is like,” insisted the three-time European Tour winner. “You go through peaks and troughs and I’m in a trough at the moment.

“I’ve been here before. Everyone has been here before. Two years ago Rory wasn’t playing as well as he can. You just need a spark to boost the confidence then you are flying again.

“I’d like to think that simply coming back here can give me a boost. I’m having an indifferent time, I know that. But it is one of those courses where I feel I Can get something going.

“I know it well and I think that form coming in here doesn’t really matter. It produced one of my best performances (third behind McIlroy) last year. I’ve got my family out, which is nice, and hopefully I can find a spark this week to get some momentum going for the rest of the year.”

A repeat of either the 62 or 63 he shot when winning for the first time here would do nicely. He also shot 63 when making a successful defence of the title when both McIlroy and Tiger Woods were in the field for the event’s 25th staging.

“I think playing with Rory when he was world No.1 at the time in three rounds out of four when I won in 2014 will always be a special memory,” he recalled. “When you do something like that, it gives you great confidence. You know your game is in a decent place.

“I know I’ve won round here, so it’s a case of trying to get off to a good start, getting myself in a good position heading into the weekend then take things from there.”

Twelve months ago, Gallacher’s hopes of a title hat-trick were dashed by McIlroy, who took the event by the scruff of the neck with a second-round 64 and went on to record a three-shot success.

Newly elevated to world No.2, McIlroy is back to defend the crown, having also recorded his first professional win here in 2009 at the age of 19 years and 273 days.

“I have great memories of Dubai and I am really looking forward to getting back to a golf course where I have enjoyed success over the years,” said 26-year-old, who also made his first cut in a European Tour event as a 17-year-old amateur in 2007.

“It seems every time I come here I play well and give myself some great chances. The Omega Dubai Desert Classic always boasts an outstanding, tough field and the Majlis course is guaranteed to be in really great shape.

Obviously, I will be looking to get off to a fast start and give myself the best chance of winning the event again. To think the tournament is older than I am is testimony to its strength and popularity amongst top pros.”

The four-time major winner spearheads a field that also includes Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer.

Edinburgh-based Richie Ramsay makes his final appearance before taking a break to coincide with becoming a father for the first time.

Joining him and Gallacher in flying the Saltire in the final leg of the Gulf Swing are Marc Warren, Scott Jamieson, David Drysdale, Craig Lee, Paul Lawrie and Paul Doherty.

The latter, who won the Scottish Boys’ Championship at Dunbar in 2003, has got into the field through his efforts last year on the MENA Tour.

• Turkish Airlines flies daily from Edinburgh to Dubai via Istanbul starting from £282 including taxes and golf clubs fly for free in addition to a 40kg baggage allowance as standard (50kg in business). Book turkishairlines.com or 0844 800 6666.