Uncle Bernard wants Stephen Gallacher to outshine him

Stephen Gallacher, right, enjoys a practice round with Miguel Angel Jimenez, left, and Jose Maria Olazabal (Getty). Bernard Gallacher, below
Stephen Gallacher, right, enjoys a practice round with Miguel Angel Jimenez, left, and Jose Maria Olazabal (Getty). Bernard Gallacher, below
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Bernard Gallacher is hoping his nephew Stephen fares better than him in this week’s Masters on two counts.

First and foremost, he is keeping his fingers crossed that Stephen succeeds where he failed in 1970 by making the cut at Augusta.

That was Bernard’s one and only appearance in the season’s opening major and it proved memorable for another reason.

“I did have a putter stolen, yes,” he confirmed of a story told to the Evening News by Stephen.

“It happened before the event. The caddie had left my bag lying around and someone obviously took a shine to it.

“It didn’t really matter, though, as I wasn’t putting very well with it so I was quite pleased it was stolen!”

Using a replacement Golden Goose putter, Gallacher shot rounds of 77 and 74 to miss the cut by a shot in an event won by American Billy Casper.

He is now looking forward to seeing Stephen make his debut in glittering tournament as one of a 29-strong European contingent.

“That’s quite a difference to the time I played,” noted the former Ryder Cup captain.

“When I played, I think the total field was 50 and back then it felt like an invitation event rather than a tournament.

“There was Michael Bonallack as Amateur champion and only a couple of other Europeans.

“We didn’t really know how to get in the event as you were invited by the club’s committee.

“Things have changed. The success of the Ryder Cup has enabled us to have this power.”

The Masters will get underway tomorrow without Tiger Woods, who misses the tournament for the first time as he recovers from back surgery.

Gallacher believes the world No.1 is already facing a race against time to be on Tom Watson’s American team for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September.

“Tiger is obviously a big miss, but you don’t go under the knife if you don’t have to,” noted the Lothians legend.

“He’s now got a long rehab and the big question now is whether or not he’ll be at Gleneagles.

“He’ll be picked as long as Tom Watson feels he’s playing okay but Tiger might just say I’m not up to it and that would be a blow to the Ryder Cup.”

So, with Woods absent, who is the title favourite in an event where Adam Scott will defend the title after becoming the first Australian to don the Green Jacket 12 months ago?

“I think someone like Henrik Stenson could go close as he’s starting to show form again,” said Gallacher. “Then there’s Rory McIlroy, of course. The course should suit him.

“But I think Masters is all about putting and Tiger was a fantastic putter. Phil Mickelson is also a great putter on his day and that’s why he’s done so well at Augusta.

“It really boils down to putting on these fast and undulating greens. That’s why Nick Faldo used to do so well because there’s no finer putter than him. Invariably the guy who wins the Masters has been the best putter that week.

“If picking an American, I think a player like Dustin Johnson, who is very powerful, might do well. He can also putt well and he might say ‘Tiger’s not in the field so this might be my week’.

“Justin Rose has the game, as he showed when winning the US Open last year, but he’s a bit like Tiger in that his fitness has been a worry and that bothers me a bit.”

Gallacher is delighted that Stephen’s preparation has included practice rounds with two former winners, Sandy Lyle and Jose Maria Olazabal.

“They’ve both been playing in The Masters for a long time so they know their way around the course,” he observed.

“Even though there are a lot of new tees now, it is the same walk round and Sandy and Olly would have been able to tell Stephen what he should be looking out for.

“What should Stephen’s target be this week? I think like any week you have to make the cut first and foremost then take it from there.”

It will be a proud moment for the whole Gallacher family when Stephen’s name is announced on the first tee tomorrow and Bernard just wishes his dad, Barney, could still have been around to see it.

“My dad will be looking down and saying ‘I’ve coached him to reach the highest level’,” he laughed.

“My dad was always good at giving Stephen some good critical advice. But the good thing about Stephen is that he very seldom took it!”