Stephen Gallacher is blown away by difficulty of Kingsbarns

Former footballer Ruud Gullit jokes around with defending champion Tyrell Hatton. Picture: Richard Heathcote Getty Images
Former footballer Ruud Gullit jokes around with defending champion Tyrell Hatton. Picture: Richard Heathcote Getty Images
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Former winner Stephen Gallacher was relieved that he avoided a “brutal” test at Carnoustie as he got off to an encouraging start in the £3.85 million Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

In testing conditions for the opening round in the pro-am, Lothians star Gallacher overcame two double-bogeys to break par with a one-under 71 at Kingsbarns. That left him sitting in the top 15, just three shots off the lead, in the event he recorded his maiden European Tour triumph in 2004.

‘It was tough. Really tough,” said Gallacher after a round that saw him birdie the third, eighth, 12th, 14th and 16th, with those double-bogeys coming at the sixth and 15th. “There was no into or downwind, just straight across.

“I played lovely, just had two bad holes. Take them out and it’s a really good score.”

Gallacher now heads to Carnoustie for his second round on Friday before moving on to St Andrews on Saturday.

“I went and played Carnoustie the other day and it’s still in quite a fiery condition, having hosted The Open,” added the three-time European Tour 
winner. “I love the course, love going to play there. It would have been brutal today but it’s tough in a dead calm. It’s just a tough course. But you don’t want to play it in a heavy, heavy wind like this. You just have to plot your way round it.”

The Bathgate man has come into this event on the back of a consistent run of form, which has lifted him to 90th in the Race to Dubai.

He is still hopeful that he can qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship in the UAE and another strong performance this week would certainly be helpful in achieving that goal.

“I love this tournament, love these courses, love playing links,” said Gallacher. “You have to re-learn it again, especially coming from Portugal, where it was soft and wet – you could fly it up in the air and spin it back. Here it’s totally different. This kind of suits my eye a bit better, along the ground.”

On a day when Edinburgh-based Richie Ramsay and Cockburnspath’s David Drysdale carded matching 73s, defending champion Tyrrell Hatton was left shaken after hitting a female spectator with a wayward shot at Kingsbarns.

The woman was left with a nasty wound on her forehead after being struck by Hatton’s ball as she stood at the side of the 15th green with her daughter. She was treated on the course – one of the three used for the £3.85 million tournament – by paramedics before being taken by buggy to the on-course medical centre before being transferred to a local hospital.

In a statement, a tournament spokesman later said: “She received stitches to a cut on her forehead and was discharged. She will require no further treatment.”

The unfortunate incident came less than a week after a woman suffered a serious eye injury in a similar incident at the Ryder Cup.

“It’s probably one of the worst feelings I’ve had on a golf course,” admitted Hatton after carding a two-under-par 70 to sit just two shots off the lead, shared by England’s Matt Wallace and Marcus Fraser from Australia.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever hit someone. So I was pretty devastated, to be honest. I was getting updates when I was out on the golf course, because I wanted to know how she was doing.

“When I finished my first nine holes, I got told that she was going to hospital to have a couple of stitches but there were no concerns from a medical point of view, which is obviously good news. But, at the same time, I’m just devastated that I’ve hit her. I will keep in touch and get regular updates.”