STEPHEN GALLACHER set out in today’s second round of the £2.5 million Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open aiming to convert more of the chances he is creating at Castle Stuart.
The Lothians star was pleased to be lying in the top 20 at the end of a low-scoring first day on the banks of the Moray Firth after signing for a four-under-par 68.
But he reckoned he could have been a lot closer to playing partner Francesco Molinari than six shots after the Italian set the pace with a sensational 62.
“I had a lot of chances and some went in and some didn’t,” said Gallacher of his opening effort at the Inverness course.
“On the back nine [his front nine after starting at the tenth], for instance, I birdied two, three, five and six and also had chances on one and four.
“Seven was also a good chance and you have to take them, especially as it was as easy as you are ever going to play here.”
That was reference to conditions being flat calm for the morning starters and that, allied to the course being soft after the recent wet weather, left it virtually defenceless.
“When you are playing on perfect and holding greens and there is no wind, you feel as though you are leaving a lot of chances out there,” added Gallacher.
“The greens are true, but you just can’t get links greens when the elements are the way they’ve been recently. Play any links course with no wind and the scores are there.
“We had the first three holes downwind and then the wind dropped – you can’t get any better than that, but, at the same time, it was weird to play the course when it was flat calm.”
Gallacher’s one grumble about his card was a bogey at the short eight – his 17th – that dropped him back to four-under. “It was a nice and pleasing start, though I would have been a bit happier with five-under,” said the former Dunhill Links champion.
“I tried to force one into the eighth and turn it into the gap, but pushed it into the hay. I chipped it to five feet, but my putt horseshoed out.
“It was fractions. If it [the tee shot] lands and kicks left, it’s stiff, but it kicked up.”
In contrast, Molinari enjoyed one of those days when nothing went wrong and Gallacher admitted it been a pleasure to watch the Italian’s ten-under-par master-class.
“My four-under felt like four-over playing alongside Frankie,” he admitted. “He just kept giving himself chances and took ten of them.
“I’ve never really played alongside many boys who have shot ten under in a round, although I did it myself once at Gleneagles.
“It kind of drags you along and we all played pretty well. Frankie was knocking all of his chances into the hole and that’s the difference.
“I heard he said it was easy; well, if you shoot ten-under, it’s not going to be that hard, is it?
“He hit the hole a couple of more times and it could have been even better. I thought at one point he could have shot 59 and it was there for him.
“It was his day, but it’s hard to score like that for all four days. It depends on the weather and it’s day-by-day on links.
“It was just nice to not be sideways rain for a change. In fact, it’s the first time in about four weeks that I have not had waterproofs on.”
Gallacher’s opening score was matched by three of his compatriots: Martin Laird, Marc Warren and Gary Orr.
Scott Jamieson, who tied for third last year, and Steven O’Hara also started day two in the top 40 or so after opening with 69s, with on-form David Drysdale and amateur ace Jack McDonald among those on 70.
“There are a lot of the Scottish guys playing well and everyone wants a Scottish winner,” said Gallacher as he looked ahead to the next three days.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s Andrew Oldcorn made a steady start in the US Senior Open at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion, Michigan.
The former PGA champion opened the over-50s major with a level-par 70 to sit in a tie for 29th, five shots behind leader Tom Kite.
On the European Challenge Tour, Lothians-based Jamie McLeary was the leading Scot after the opening round of the Credit Suisse Challenge in Lucerne. He carded a three-under 69 to sit joint-11th, with Raymond Russell, winner last time out in Italy, lying outside the top 100 after a 74.
And, on the EuroPro Tour, Archerfield ace Elliot Saltman, another winner on his last event, moved up to joint-21st after a second-round 69 in the Kingspan Concra Wood Open in Ireland.