LOTHIANS star Stephen Gallacher is enjoying the desert storm that Tiger Woods has kicked up with a European Tour appearance in Dubai this week.
The former world No.1 is back playing in the Omega Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club for the first time since 2014, when Gallacher became the first player in the event’s history to win it back-to-back.
“It is hard to describe the effect Tiger has when he plays in an event,” said the Lothians man. “The hype and interest from the media is ten-fold.
“Even some players are stopping to get him to sign autographs. I don’t care what anyone says. He’s still one of the biggest draws in the game. By miles, in fact.
“There’s a real fascination about him. People still love watching him. Even at times when he has been playing poor, people want to see if he can get back on top form.”
Woods is also a two-time Desert Classic winner and Gallacher added: “There’s always been a mystique about him – and he’s still got that. John Daly had that at one point in his career.
“I’d say that Tiger is still easily the biggest player in golf. I played with him in the Champions’ event here two years ago and also in the first two rounds. I’d also played with him before that. He’s a great lad. He’ll never let you pass.”
Gallacher headed into today’s first round feeling confident that a return to his happiest hunting ground in golf can once again bring out the best in him.
“It’s being familiar with this course,” said the 42-year-old, one of six Scots in the field on this occasion. “Familiarity is why you play your home course well. You know it like the back of your hand. You’ve been in every scenario, you know the lines, you know the clubs, the run-offs at the green. I’ve played it so often, and when you’ve had success on it, it doubles the familiarity.
“You have good memories from coming here, and I think it can raise your game. You see it in all sports. Guys do well at certain places, whether it’s a golf course, race track or football pitch. They seem to do well when they feel comfortable somewhere. I think that’s all it is, really.”
While disappointed to have missed the cut in the opening two events of the Middle East Swing, particularly so after he recorded top-25 finishes in both Australia and Hong Kong before Christmas at the start of the new European Tour campaign, Gallacher is in good fettle.
“My game isn’t far away, just a wee bit rusty,” he said. “I played great in Abu Dhabi and okay in Qatar. I’ve only been over par once in 10 rounds, so it’s very close. You’ve just got to keep working. It’s early in the season. I’m really happy the way it’s going and it’s just a case of getting a bit of momentum going.”
This week’s event will determine whether the 42-year-old is heading east or west from here on Sunday night. “I need a top 10 to get into next week’s event in Malaysia because it’s a tri-sanctioned event and there are only 60 spots for European Tour players,” he said. “If I was getting into that, I would also play in Australia the following week. If not, I’ll go home and then head back out for India (the Hero Indian Open in mid-March).”
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