Stephen Gallacher sets out tomorrow in his bid to join a pantheon of golfing greats by becoming a European Tour event hat-trick winner.
But, as heads into the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Lothians star already has one eye on the next Ryder Cup in America.
Gallacher has scheduled his season to ensure he’s got the best chance of making a flying start when the qualifying campaign for the 2016 Hazeltine match gets underway in August.
The 40-year-old secured one of Paul McGinley’s wild cards for last September’s clash at Gleneagles, where Europe came out on top over the Americans for the third match running.
But he is determined to make the next instalment, which will probably see either Darren Clarke or Miguel Angel Jimenez at the helm, under his own steam.
“I want to be fresh for the end of the year when the Ryder Cup campaign starts again,” he admitted in the build up to his second defence of the Dubai title starting tomorrow.
“I had a good year in 2014 and played in the Ryder Cup. I’m now 30-odd in the world rankings and trying to improve on that.
“I think to get to the next level – i.e getting into the top ten – is going to be more mental than anything else. But I feel comfortable playing with guys like Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia, which is a massive thing.”
Gallacher played with world No.1 McIlroy in the Abu Dhabi Invitational at Yas Links on Sunday, when he was out-driving the Open and US PGA champion.
Even with a different driver in the bag, he was also keeping up with Stenson, another big-hitter, as they teamed up to win yesterday’s Desert Classic ‘Challenge Match’.
“I think I’ll be doing well to hit it past Rory when he plays at his full strength, but I’m certainly hitting the ball a lot further just now,” admitted TaylorMade man Gallacher.
Only five players – Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Ernie Els and Colin Montgomerie – have managed to win the same event three years on the trot on the European Tour.
But, based on an amazing scored record over the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club, Gallacher is entitled to have high hopes as he bids to join that exclusive club.
He’s finished tenth-second-first-first in the last four stagings of this event, signing for a 62 and two 63s, the second of which helped set up his one-shot triumph over Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo.
“I’m going to approach it the same as last year, not try to put too much pressure on myself and just go ahead and enjoy it,” he declared, having been drawn with three-times winner Els and newly-crowned Qatar Masters champion Branden Grace in the opening two rounds.
“Hopefully come Sunday, I’m in position to give it a good go. My plan is to try and not put myself under any pressure. I’d love to make it three in a row, don’t get me wrong. To win last year on the 25th anniversary was special, with the field and with the history behind it.
“So I take a lot of confidence from that and it set up sort of my best year. I’m hoping to just keep building on it. It’s a course I play well, so I’m hoping to just not think too much about it and just get on and play golf really.
“You get certain places where everything seems to click for you, and I certainly feel good coming here and I really enjoy playing the course and I love coming to Dubai.”
The Bathgate man faces stiff competition as McIlroy and Stenson, the world No.1 and No.2, spearhead the strongest field of the new season so far bearing in mind it also includes Garcia, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood.
“I was a bit rusty,” said Gallacher of his first appearance of the week in Qatar last week. “But my was round (a 67) was good and the signs are good for this week.”
Morningside-based Richie Ramsay and Turnhouse-attached Chris Doak will be both aiming to use the event to kick-start their seasons.
• Turkish Airlines fly daily from Edinburgh to Dubai via Istanbul with your golf equipment flying for free.