BMW PGA kicks off vital spell for Stephen Galllacher

Stephen Gallacher enjoys competing at  Wentworth
Stephen Gallacher enjoys competing at Wentworth
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It’s been feast or famine for Stephen Gallacher in the European Tour’s flagship event over the past decade.

He finished fourth in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in 2010 and was 20th ten years ago.

But the other eight appearances in that time at the Surrey venue where his uncle Bernard used to be the club pro resulted in missed cuts.

The event celebrates its 60th anniversary this week and Gallacher will be aiming to be there for the duration this time.

It marks what he believes is the Ryder Cup race reaching the ‘business end’. After jostling for position since last September, the European team to face the Americans at Gleneagles later this year is starting to take shape.

Helped by his feat in becoming the first player in the event’s 25-year history to win the Dubai Desert Classic back-to-back, the Lothians star is in the mix. As things stand, the 39-year-old is lying 15th in the overall points list in the battle for 12 spots on Paul McGinley’s team.

It’s hotting up by the week, with 50-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez having moved within touching distance of one of the nine automatic places after his success in last weekend’s Spanish Open. “Wentworth’s a great track,” said Gallacher of a venue he knows well, having paid regular summer visits there to stay with his uncle when he was younger.

It’s been stiffened up a fair bit since then through changes made in recent years by former Open champion Ernie Els.

“It’s mostly the bunkers that have made it tougher as they’re so deep now,” added Gallacher, who finished on four-under when he claimed that eye-catching result behind Englishman Simon Khan four years ago. “It’s down to elements as well. If the weather is kind and the course is a bit firm, it can play better but if it’s soft it’s a really tough track.”

Newly-crowned Players’ champion Martin Kaymer heads a stellar field for the milestone event, which is also the tenth under the BMW banner.

The German is among ten major winners lining up, the others including reigning US Open champion Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy.

“It’s a great field – the biggest of the year for our Tour,” noted Gallacher. “All the boys are coming back from America and supporting the Tour, which is great. It’s one we all want to do well in.

“It’s the start of everything for us really, you aim to get to Wentworth and peak for a couple of months, starting there.”

Also aiming to secure a slice of this week’s £3.9 million prize pot are two other Lothians-based players – Richie Ramsay and Jamie McLeary.

Ramsay arrived here on the back of a fine fourth place in the Spanish Open while McLeary is making his debut in the event, having only just risen above the cut-off line within the last week.

The Scottish contingent also includes former Dunbar assistant David Drysdale, who will be aiming to reproduce the form that has seen him record two successive top-20s in the event.

It was won, of course, by Andrew Oldcorn back in 2001, but his exemption has now expired.

The Kings Acre-attached player still has a big event on his plate this week, though, as he sets out tomorrow in the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Michigan.

Oldcorn tied for eighth in the same event in 2010 – his rookie season in the over-50s ranks.

Colin Montgomerie heads a 34-strong European Senior Tour contingent that also includes East Lothian-based DJ Russell.