Lothians stars in position to make a charge for Dunhill Links

Chris Doak, main, Richie Ramsay,below, and Stephen Gallacher are all competing to win for different reasons. Doak to secure his card; Ramsay wants to be in the race to Dubai and Gallacher is aiming for momentum
Chris Doak, main, Richie Ramsay,below, and Stephen Gallacher are all competing to win for different reasons. Doak to secure his card; Ramsay wants to be in the race to Dubai and Gallacher is aiming for momentum
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It was a Lothians link-up as Stephen Gallacher, Chris Doak and Richie Ramsay all headed into today’s third round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship sitting inside the top ten.

Gallacher, of course, is Lothians born and bred while Doak and Ramsay also have a Capital connection now, living in Livingston and Morningside respectively.

Doak, in fact, is attached to Turnhouse and he is hoping to see his career take off after becoming a father for the first time.

He dashed home from the Wales Open at Celtic Manor a fortnight ago and just made it in time as wife Laura gave birth to a daughter, Eva.

“Golf is not the most important thing anymore, it’s my wife and family now,” said the 36-year-old after carding a five-under par 67 at Kingsbarns to sit joint-sixth alongside Ramsay on seven-under.

Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin birdied his last two holes at the same venue to lead on nine-under – one ahead of four players, including three-time major winner Padraig Harrington – at halfway in the £3million event.

Doak finished 20th in the same tournament 12 months ago to secure his card for another season. Lying 115th on the money-list this season, he needs to climb five spots to repeat the feat.

“I’ve got a picture of Eva on my phone that I just need to look at to calm down,” added the former Tartan Tour No. 1 in reply to being asked if fatherhood could help towards that.

“I’m more chilled now and feel as though I can just go out and play and see what happens instead of trying to push it.”

Considering that he missed the first two months of the year due to injury, Ramsay has done remarkably well to come into this event sitting 63rd in the Race to Dubai.

His immediate goal is to get into the top 60 for the ‘Final Series’ and he’s certainly a man on form, having chalked up top-20 finishes in his last four events.

Long term, Ramsay’s eyes are set on the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, where he won the US Amateur Championship eight years ago.

“I was at the Ryder Cup on Friday (at Gleneagles), which was brilliant,” he said, revealing that he is collecting memorabilia from the event to help fuel his bid to be in the thick of the action next time.

“I still have a Hazeltine headcover and I got a nice little Ryder Cup one from Jimmy (Fitzgerald), Paul McGinley’s caddie. It is good to have something like that because that is where you want to get to and it is great to have a goal.”

Determined to be there in Minnesota, too, after having his appetite whetted at Gleneagles, Gallacher is delighted to be heading into the weekend just one shot behind his two compatriots.

He began with a 68 on Thursday and shot 70 at Kingsbarns yesterday, where the 39-year-old was four-under for the day before running up a double-bogey 6 at the seventh hole – his 16th – but then finishing with a birdie.

“I’ll tell you Monday,” replied Gallacher to being asked if the prospect of now playing two rounds back-to-back on the Old Course put him in an advantageous position heading into the weekend.

“It could be hell in there on Saturday. I think we’ve all had rain, we’ve all had wind. We’ve all had tough courses so far,” added the 2004 winner.

He’s still feeling tired after a full-on week in Perthshire, but is being driven on by another chance to taste victory on the hallowed fairways of the Old Course. “Being in contention gives you the impetus to keep going,” admitted Gallacher.

France’s Raphael Jacquelin claimed the halfway lead as the luck of the draw had a major impact.

Eleven of the top 12 scores came from players who were at Kingsbarns yesterday and Carnoustie on Thursday, when calm conditions meant traditionally the hardest of the three venues played relatively easy.

“I’m pretty happy, especially the way I finished,” said Jacquelin, whose last win came in a record-equalling nine-hole play-off in the Spanish Open last year. “I birdied 17 and 18 so it was good before having dinner and going to rest.

“I’ve been working hard every year since the last 20 years to be at this position. It’s a lot of golf to play, so you know, the game of golf, it’s not that easy. You just have to stick to the same plan and see what happens.”

Shabe Lowry, who finished joint third in this event 12 months ago, was the only player in the top 12 to play at St Andrews on Friday, meaning he will face Carnoustie on Saturday before the final round is again played over the Old Course. He was joint second going into today’s round.

“To be honest, the way I played to shoot two under was quite good,” said Lowry after a round containing four bogeys and six birdies.

Rory McIlroy was five off the lead on four under. He was keen to make the cut in the team event so his amateur partner, his father Gerry, could play at St Andrews on his 55th birthday this Sunday. He said. “ felt like I struck the ball pretty well for the first couple of days, but just to see a few putts roll in gave me confidence.”