Golf: Laird and Gallacher still in contention

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SCOTTISH duo Stephen Gallacher and Martin Laird stayed in contention during today’s second round of the Omega World Cup at Mission Hills in China.

Two behind leaders Australia at the start of play, the Scots covered their opening 15 holes in three under par at the Hainen Island venue.

That moved them to 12-under for the tournament and, lying third at that stage, they were still very much in the title hunt.

Playing foursomes in the second round, Gallacher and Laird opened with seven straight pars on a spectacular course that is lined with lava.

They made their first gain of the day with a 2 at the short eighth then followed three consecutive pars with back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th.

Laird left a 15-foot birdie putt just short at the par-3 15th, where Australian duo Richard Green and Brendan Jones dropped a shot after finding sand off the tee.

That allowed the Scots to get back to where they had started the day, having seen the Aussies open up a three-shot advantage with four holes to play.

After their opening 61, Green and Jones began well with a birdie at the second.

They dropped a shot at the fourth, but recovered with a birdie at the next and an eagle at the sixth to reach 14 under par through seven holes.

Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, who had started the day alongside the Scots, had closed the gap on the leaders to a shot with two holes of their second round to play.

That followed their sixth birdie of the day at the driveable 16th, where McDowell’s superb bunker shot allowed McIlroy to tap the ball in for their 3.

The Scots had been delighted with their opening 63, which saw Laird chip in for an eagle at the 16th then hole a bunker shot at the last for a birdie.

“The pair of us played some lovely golf after we came flying out of the blocks to be three-under through four,” said Lothians star Gallacher.

“We also produced a big finish, but we could easily have gone even lower than nine-under because I missed a few other birdie chances from around 12 feet on the front nine. The important thing was that we gave ourselves chances at every hole with the result that it was a relatively stress-free round.”

Gallacher, who has been accompanied on the trip by wife Helen, has already enjoyed a memorable week in China, including a spectacular opening ceremony on Wednesday night.

He added: “We’ve got the Saltire on our bags and belts as well so we really are flying the flag for our country because you don’t get enough chances to do that.

“I certainly won’t forget the opening ceremony in a hurry. It was an unbelievable spectacle and the fireworks display was breathtaking.

“This is a volcanic island and fireworks were released from two mock volcanoes which also spewed out lava at the same time.

“The planning and the execution was a work of art and the organisers deserve a great deal of credit for putting on such a dramatic show.”