Stephen Gallacher summed up how deep he’d dug to stay in the Scottish Open by declaring: “I had the shovel and the spade with me!”
The Lothians star was in grave danger of missing the cut in the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event after slipping to three-over early in his second round.
But he covered the last 13 holes in a superb four-under to end up giving himself a bit of breathing space as the halfway axe fell at Royal Aberdeen.
Indeed, he was lying joint-19th heading into today’s third round, just five shots behind three joint-leaders – compatriot Marc Warren, Swede Kristof Broberg and Ricardo Gonzalez from Argentina.
“It was bizarre,” declared Gallacher after coming home in 33 – one of the day’s best efforts over that menacing stretch – for a two-under 69.
“I played brilliant yesterday and putted horrifically; today I played horrifically and putted brilliantly.”
The transformation on the slick greens followed some advice from American Dave Stockton, his short-game coach.
“I got a text from Dave when I came off last night and put that to work today,” added the 39-year-old.
“It just came in when I was in the players’ lounge, saying ‘sorry to see you putted so poorly, blah, blah, blah’. He’d been watching me, and out of that texted and said, ‘this is what you need to do’.
“It’s one of those things, you can’t see what you’re doing, you need a pair of other eyes.”
Gallacher is staying this week at Donald Trump’s course north of Aberdeen and wasted no time trying out Stockton’s tip. “I putted for an hour and a half up at Trump last night,” he said. “I tried what Dave said and started rolling the ball a bit better. “Today, I holed some lovely putts when I needed to, including a 15-footer for a birdie at the tenth then a ten-footer at the next.”
For his approach at the latter, Gallacher hit a 6-iron, having only needed a wedge with the wind at his back the day before.
“I think this is the wind for how this course is meant to be played,” he observed. “This is where the bunkers are placed, the way the architect’s designed it.
“Yesterday you were flipping it past all the bunkers and coming into unknown territory.
“That’s three different winds we’ve played in now. That’s links golf for you. It can change in mid-round and keeps you on your toes.”
Eight behind Rory McIlroy after the first round, Gallacher is now a shot ahead of the two-times major winner.
It followed McIlroy slumping to a second-round 78 – the latest in a long list of frustrating Fridays this season for the Northern Irishman. Three off the lead at the start after his opening 67, David Drysdale just squeezed into the final two rounds following a less encouraging 76.
After seeing a good birdie chance slip past at the second, he dropped a shot at the next and found himself fighting all the way thereafter.
For Jamie McLeary, it wasn’t the preparation for next week’s Open that he was looking for.
The Bonnyrigg-based player failed to register a single birdie in a second-round 78, which left him well below the cut mark on ten-over.
“At least it gives me a couple of more days to get ready for next week,” he said. “Even when I qualified for The Open I knew that my game needed more work.”
It’s the ninth cut he’s missed in a row but, unlike some other events this year, there were some decent shots mixed in.
“This week was probably the opposite of what has been mainly been happening to me this season,” he added.
“I didn’t hit that many bad shots but a lot of the time they were either taking a bounce and going through the back of the green or getting a soft bounce.”
It was also a tough day for Dunbar amateur Zander Culverwell as he signed for an 81 to finish on 15-over.
Three double-bogeys did the bulk of the damage, with his sole birdie of the day coming at the ninth.