Stepehn Gallacher’s Ryder Cup bid is on

Stephen Gallacher was in a play-off for the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. Picture: Kenny Smith
Stephen Gallacher was in a play-off for the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. Picture: Kenny Smith
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LOTHIANS star Stephen Gallacher is on course to play in the event which European captain Paul McGinley says is a “stepping stone” for the Ryder Cup. Gallacher is up to 14th in this season’s Race to Dubai 
after finishing joint-second in the £1.4 million Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

The leap of five places has boosted his chances of playing in the Seve Trophy at St Nom La Breteche in Paris in early October.

Sam Torrance, the 2002 Ryder Cup-winning captain, will lead a Great Britain & Ireland team against a Continent of Europe side with Jose Maria Olazabal at the helm.

It will be overseen by McGinley, who admitted at Gleneagles last week that it was unlikely a player, certainly a rookie, could make his team for the match there in 13 months’ time without playing in the Seve Trophy first.

Gallacher, who lost out to Englishman Tommy Fleetwood at the first extra hole on a dramatic final day in Perthshire, is desperate to face the Americans in the first Ryder Cup to be played in Scotland in more than 40 years.

And, with McGinley having also talked about how he believes in “horses for courses”, the 38-year-old picked the perfect time to maintain his excellent record on the PGA Centenary Course.

Since 2001, he’s now recorded seven top-15 finishes and, in the last three years alone, has been sixth twice and now runner-up.

It means he’s got an ace up his sleeve heading into the start of the qualifying race for the European team in Wales this week.

“Yeah, well, I like the course and it suits my game,” admitted the Dubai Desert Classic champion when reminded of that splendid record. “If I can just keep playing the way I’m playing, I’m sure I’ll be knocking on the door.”

Gallacher, set to have an MRI scan today to check out a back injury he overcame manfully, closed with a roller-coaster 67 after putting himself in contention with a superb 64 on Saturday. He led with eight holes to play only to run up a triple-bogey 7 at the 11th after putting his approach into a bush, from where he had to take a penalty drop. But birdies at the 14th and 16th hauled him back into contention before sending a rousing roar down through Glendevon as he holed a 12-foot eagle putt at the last.

In the play-off that also featured Argentine Ricardo Gonzalez, the Scot was unable to repeat the feat, missing an eight-foot birdie putt after finding sand with his approach.

But he admitted: “I would have taken a play-off on Monday, that’s for sure. I was just happy to be playing, given the way my back was feeling at the start of the week.

“I was pleased with the way I played. I actually hit the ball really well and it was only the short irons I was struggling with. I couldn’t get into my posture for them and they were causing me concern.

“On the 11th I was in a sandy divot and just tried to back foot it, caught it a wee bit clean. That was the only bad shot I hit and it was because I was in a divot, so I had to change the way I would hit it. So I’m happy.

“On the 18th with the eagle putt, I knew I needed to hole it to have a chance. And I knew the guys behind me still had a chance.It was a great putt. It’s just a pity I couldn’t do it again in the play-off.”

West Linton’s Gareth Wright reeled off six birdies in a row on the back nine as he closed with a 71 to finish in a tie for 52nd on six-under. It earned him £5180 while fellow Edinburgh-based Tartan Tour player Neil Fenwick picked up £2099 for 71st as he signed off with a 76.