Stephen Gallacher: Covid cannot take away prestige of Scottish Open

Lorthians ace desperate to do well in home event with fellow Scots

By Maretin Dempster
Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 10:30 pm
Stephen Gallacher played in the Irish Open last week to tune up
Stephen Gallacher played in the Irish Open last week to tune up

Covid-19 may have forced the Scottish Open into a new slot this year but Stephen Gallacher insists this week’s event in East Lothian still carries the same clout.

“It’s massive,” said the Lothians star of the $7 million Aberdeen Standard Investments-sponsored tournament, which starts on Thursday at The Renaissance Club.

“You see the people who have won it and the courses we have been to, it just tells you the stature of it. The past list of winners is superb.”

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That list includes Phil Mickelson, who claimed the title at Castle Stuart in 2013 before becoming Open champion at Muirfield the following week.

Fellow American Rickie Fowler then triumphed at Gullane in 2015 while other names on the trophy include Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els, Tom Leham, Retief Goosen, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood.

“It’s always got the best slot just before The Open and, even though that’s been changed this year, the history of the event hasn’t changed,” added Gallacher. “It’s steeped in it and you would absolutely love to win it.”

The 45-year-old is among 15 Scots in this week’s line-up, joining the likes of Paul Lawrie, Bob MacIntyre, Richie Ramsay and Grant Forrest in bidding to land a home win in the event’s second successive staging at The Renassiance Club after Austrian Bernd Wiesberger’s title triumph last summer.

“Definitely for a Scotsman, you look at the roll of honour and it would mean so much,” said Gallacher, a four-time tour winner, most recently in the 2019 Hero Indian Open.

“We’ve actually got about a one in nine or ten chance this year with 15 playing in it, so, hopefully, there’s a Saltire flying on Sunday night.”

There’s no Mickelson, Fowler or Justin Thomas this year due to the coronavirus, meaning the top Americans are happy to concentrate on the PGA Tour for the time being.

But world No. 17 Tommy Fleetwood spearheads a strong field that also includes 20th-ranked Matthew Fitzpatrick, as well as major winners Danny Willett and Martin Kaymer and also former world No. 1 Lee Westwood and Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter.

“Listen, you are not detracting anything away if you win it,” insisted Gallacher. “You get the same exemptions, you get the trophy, you’ve beat the field and have the title.

“The Rolex Series takes our Tour up a notch. Playing for seven million dollars. You know you are at a big event.

“Tommy Fleetwood and boys like that are coming and making the effort to play. The field, considering the year we have had, is strong and next week (the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth) is the same. It’s what these tournaments deserve.

“You are playing for a lot of money and a lot of points. The Tour has been fantastic to get events with sticking to stringent rules, but these massive events are season-defining.

“You could go on a wee run. I went to Ireland to get a bit of form because if you have a good fortnight, you get propelled up the Order of Merit and up the the Road to Dubai standings.”

The small tartan army also includes Tartan Pro Tour Order of Merit winner Neil Fenwick, as well as PGA in Scotland pair Paul O’Hara and Craig Lee.

“It’s over a million to win,” noted Gallacher of this week’s prize pot. “For the young boys coming in through the region, if they finish top ten it is six figures and would be an outrageous boost.

“These boys have had a rough run with EuroPro Tour out, the Challenge Tour cancelled, the MENA Tour cancelled, so the lads are struggling.

“So for Paul [Lawrie] to put his Tartan Pro Tour events on and then get the carrot at the end of it with the chance to play here has been brilliant.”

Gallacher, who is among a small group of players staying at home this week but only because they will be in total isolation there, would love to get himself in the mix on Sunday night.

“My first ever pro event was an amatuer playing in the Bell’s Scottish Open at Gleneagles,” he recalled. “I must have played over 20 and fifth or sixth at Loch Lomond is the closest I have come.”

Referring to his game heading into this week, he added: “I’m inconsistent, but my good is good. My bad is just a wee bit too bad, but you click and get form and there would be nothing.

“I’m a member of Renaissance, I play it quite a lot and there will be proud people there. It’s a shame there’s no fans, but we are still competing against a stellar field and it is still showcased across the globe.

“We’d love the fans and family and pals to be there, although it’s strange for me. Normally, I’m trying to sort tickets all over the place and it is going to be weird not doing it.”