Desert specialist Stephen Gallacher is hoping to kick up another sand storm in the face of some of golf’s big guns this week despite being forced into his longest break without hitting a golf ball.
The Lothians star joins Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler – all in the world’s top six – in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as the European Tour’s Gulf Swing starts in the UAE tomorrow.
It is Gallacher’s first appearance of the 2016 campaign, having undergone some “minor procedures” on one of his hands since the end of last season.
“It was the problem that forced me to withdraw before the start of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last May,” the 41-year-old told the Evening News.
“It had been niggling me a bit since then and, though I tried to manage it as well as I could, I knew that I needed three weeks in a row off to get it cleared up once and for all.
“It forced me into not hitting any balls and I couldn’t have anyway as it was too sore. I didn’t hit balls for three-and-a-half weeks, which has to be as long as I’ve gone throughout my career without hitting a shot, though I did some putting.”
Following a family break in Aviemore over the festive period, Gallacher headed out here last Friday to prepare for this event, the Qatar Masters and the Dubai Desert Classic, the event he won in both 2013 and 2014.
“I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday playing golf with a few of my pals. I also did some work with (coaches) Pete Cowen, Mike Walker and Phil Kenyon and, in addition to my hand being fine, it felt like a small pre-season.
“It’s great that we’ve got Rory, Jordan and Rickie here this week then two more good fields in Qatar and Dubai. They all carry big points so there’s a chance to get the year off to a good start and I’m really looking forward to the new season.”
Elsewhere, former Lothians champion Zander Culverwell marked his pro debut with a level-par 72 to sit joint-fifth after the opening round of the Pro Golf Tour’s Red Sea Egyptian Classic at Ain Sokhna.