Stephen Gallacher misses out on Open spot but return to form is big lift

Stephen Gallacher at Gullane with his caddy, son Jack
Stephen Gallacher at Gullane with his caddy, son Jack
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Lothians star Stephen Gallacher was disappointed but by no means distraught after coming up just short in his brave bid to be teeing up in this week’s Open Championship.

The 43-year-old had one of three spots up for grabs at Carnoustie through the Scottish Open in his sights after covering the first 16 holes in the final round in five-under-par.

South Africa's Brandon Stone won by four shots at Gullane after a stunning final-round 60

South Africa's Brandon Stone won by four shots at Gullane after a stunning final-round 60

At that point, Gallacher was tied for fifth and had just three non-exempt players ahead of him on the leaderboard in the Aberdeen Standard Investments-sponsored event.

But his hopes of joining five other Scots in the field for the season’s final major disappeared after a bogey-4 at the penultimate hole on Gullane’s championship composite course.

In closing with a 66 for a 13-under-par 267 total, Gallacher finished joint-tenth behind South African Brandon Stone, who closed with a course-record 60 to claim the coveted title. “I played a lot better than I have been, so I’m delighted,” declared Gallacher of his fourth top-ten finish in his home event.

“My form wasn’t the greatest coming in. The courses we’ve been playing lately have been the toughest stretch of four tournaments I can remember with the rough on them.

“I’ve made a couple of cuts but not played great, so have been scrambling a lot and you are mentally fatigued when you are struggling like that.

“I’ve worked really hard on my game this week and you get confidence from hitting good shots out on the course. You can start to post some numbers when that’s the case. I’ve had a lot of birdies this week, which is good, and I’ve worked hard on my putting as well. Now I’m looking forward to my next stretch of tournaments.

“It’s always good when you hit the ball well. I feel if I can keep my game like that, I can have a chance of competing and maybe knock one off before the end of the year.”

This was the first event on home soil for Gallacher’s 17-year-old son Jack since he picked up his bag and that on-course relationship is working well.

“He’s been brilliant, a breath of fresh air,” said dad. “It’s not as though it’s a strange thing to him as he’s been around golf since he was three years old and plays off one,

“He’s been at Ryder Cups and was out in Dubai when I’ve played with Tiger and Rory, so nothing has ever fazed him.

“Yesterday, Thomas Pieters’ caddie said you would have thought he’d been out here for years, which was nice for him.

“It’s been nice for him to be on the bag. He’s still a cheey wee s*** – but that’s what you want, isn’t it?”

Stone, a 25-year-old from Pretoria, secured his third European Tour triumph in style by trimming a shot off the course record set by Japan’s Hideto Tanihara on Friday. The South African missed from eight feet on the last to record the first 59 in European Tour history but was content to claim one of the most coveted titles in golf.

“It’s incredible,” said Stone, who won nearly £900,000. “It was just one of those days where everything went right.

“Obviously to walk away with 60, having missed an eight-footer was a slight disappointment, but I won’t really complain. To know I was the best player in Scotland this week is something close to my heart. To record a win that is not in South Africa and to win a Rolex Series event on a links course in Scotland is spectacular.”

He secured one of this Open spots, with the other two going to Englishman Eddie Pepprell and Swede Jens Dantrop, who pipped former Masters champion Trevor Immelman for the last one by virtue of a better world ranking. Connor Syme signed off his Scottish Open debut with four straight birdies for a 67 to finish joint-32nd on eight-under while Jamie McLeary (68) and Duncan Stewart (71) ended up in a share of 58th on five-under.