Stephen Gallacher selected for elite group in the British Masters
Stephen Gallacher’s return to winning ways on the European Tour has earned him a seat at the “top table” in this week’s £3 million Betfred British Masters.
His playing partners in the opening two rounds at Hillside are tournament host Tommy Fleetwood and defending champion Eddie Pepperell.
Gallacher’s inclusion in the marquee group for the first 36 holes on the Lancashire coast came after he also joined Fleetwood in the Hero Challenge at Princes Dock in Liverpool earlier in the week.
“It is a brilliant draw - it’s a seat at the top table, isn’t it?” said Gallacher, who ended a five-year drought with his victory in the Hero Indian Open at the end of March.
“Tommy is a good mate of mine and I was with him all day on Tuesday, including when we had some great fun in the Hero Challenge.”
Fleetwood, who hails from Southport, is following in the footsteps of Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose in hosting an event that Gallacher’s uncle Bernard won back-to-back in 1974 and 1975.
“The fact Tommy is staging a European Tour event at 28 says it all, really,” added Gallacher. “He’s always had an old head and he has not changed one bit in the time I have known him. He has a good sense of humour, doesn’t take things too seriously and has turned into one hell of a player.
“To be able to host a tournament in his home town is brilliant and no wonder the locals love him. He’s already been European No 1, a Ryder Cup winner and contending in majors.
“It is great for me to be playing him tomorrow as it gives me a chance to see how far away I am from contending with the top guys.”
Gallacher was just seven-years-old when Hillside last staged a European Tour event, Tony Jacklin beating Bernhard Langer in a play-off to claim the 1982 Sun Alliance PGA Championship at the Lancashire venue.
“It is a great golf course from start to finish - but the back nine is brilliant,” said Gallacher. And, speaking after playing in the pro-am in wind and rain, he added: “It is tough on a day like this but it is a really good track.
“It’s like any other links course - you’ve just got to keep it out of the traps as they are just like water hazards. You are not going to gain anything from them.
“It is strategic. It is old school. Small greens, small bunkers. There’s a lot of elevated tees so the elements are going to play a part this week.”
Thanks to a fourth European Tour triumph, Gallacher heads into the event sitting 34th in the Race to Dubai and is determined to use this week to kick on.
“I am looking forward to getting going again this week as it’s been stop-start since I won,” he said.
“I had three weeks off straight after the win and then we have another week off next week.
“But, once we get into it again after that, hopefully I can push for the spots in The Open in the three tournaments before it - that’s the plan for them.”