Lothians star Stephen Gallacher is relishing the chance of a “test against the best” in the final two rounds of the £5.5 million Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Dundonald Links.
The 42-year-old backed up his opening 68 on Thursday at the Ayrshire venue with a 72 to head into the weekend with the leaders in his sights in an event boasting the strongest field of the season on the European Tour.
“That’s what you want,” said Gallacher of the Rolex Series event having attracted the likes of Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Jason Dufner.
“This tournament is going up in prestige and the rankings. It’s getting better and better and these are the tournaments you want to play in. You want to test yourself against the top guys.
“It’s great for the crowds here to see them, great for the players because the ranking points are higher. And you test yourself against the best.”
Trying to secure a spot in next week’s Open at Royal Birkdale, Gallacher had to contend with the toughest conditions for his second round.
“I was dressed for winter at the start. It was ten degrees,” he said after signing for two birdies and two bogeys in an effort that left him in a tie for 15th on four-under, five shots off the lead, held by Irishman Padraig Harrington, as well as England’s Callum Shinkwin and Alexander Knappe of Germany.
“I’m happy enough as I’m playing well. A couple of things just didn’t go my way or I could have been two or three shots better off. You’ve just got to keep in the hunt and go low over the weekend.”
As always on home soil – and also in Dubai, his happiest hunting ground on the European Tour – Gallacher was followed round by a huge army of fans.
“I’ve got a big family!” joked the three-time European Tour winner. “No, it’s just the beauty of playing in front of your home country, isn’t it?
“You get a chance to play in front of all your pals and family, supporters. Hopefully over the weekend us Scots can give us something to cheer about.”
Also aiming to do that is Duncan Stewart after he carded a second-round 70 to sit a shot behind Gallacher on three-under.
“I maybe didn’t play quite as well as yesterday, but it was pretty solid again,” said the 33-year-old, who lives in Edinburgh and is attached to Turnhouse.
“We are there for the weekend and in a good position. I don’t think the weather is going to be good tomorrow so we will see how that goes.”
He picked up a big cheque in last week’s Irish Open and is aiming to do likewise here in his bid to finish in the all-important top 100 in the Race to Dubai at the end of the season.
“These are the events you have got to play well in,” he said. “You just never know what you can do over the weekend.
“A nice wee charge up the leaderboard would be good. I don’t know what it would take to keep a card but anything in the top ten here is picking up a lot of cash so that would be a massive step towards it.”
Richie Ramsay, who started the day alongside Gallacher, had a frustrating day as he slipped back to a couple under after a 74.
“The course was playing tougher but I didn’t play as well, simple as that. It was scrappy at times,” said the Capital-based player.
“It was not easy but I’m in for the weekend which is a positive and hopefully I can push on now.
“Fingers crossed that is the bad round out of the way and there are two good ones to come now.”
An agonising wait ended in disappointment for West Linton PGA pro Gareth Wright as he missed the cut by a shot on level-par.
It looked as though the winner of last week’s qualifier at neighbouring Barassie was going to make it after a second-round 70 only the mark to fall bang on the button as 65 players exactly made it through to the weekend.
Joining the Edinburgh-based Welshman in making an early exit was defending champion Alex Noren, as well as world No.4 Rory McIlroy, who has now missed the cut in three out of his last four events.