Scottish Open: Gallacher champions Castle Stuart as the ideal venue

LOTHIANS star Stephen Gallacher wants the Scottish Open to stay at Castle Stuart for another year.

European Tour chief George O’Grady has said the Inverness course is the “running favourite” to stage the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event again in 12 months’ time.

Gallacher was delighted to see it show some teeth for the first time in two years as India’s Jeev Milka Singh emerged as the winner after a play-off.

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A decision regarding next year’s venue will be made “once the dust settles” on this event but Gallacher, for one, is all for it going back to the Highlands.

“I hope it stays here – I do,” he told the Edinburgh Evening News. “It has improved on year one and it is only going to improve again in another year’s time.”

Gallacher’s main target at Castle Stuart had been trying to secure the spot up for grabs in this week’s Open at Lytham.

That went instead to Singh as he beat Italian Francesco Molinari to claim the coveted title and a whopping first prize of £416,660.

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Gallacher, who finished in a tie for 24th to earn £25,250, will now recharge his batteries before bidding to make sure he doesn’t miss out on the final major of the season as well.

“I’ll have a week off then go to Austria and try to get back into the world’s top 100 to get into the USPGA Championship (at Kiawah Island) at the beginning of August,” he said.

After catapulting himself up the leaderboard following a 65 on Saturday, Gallacher closed with a level-par 72 to finish on 11-under.

“It was a tough day to get it close and when we teed off the rain was hammering down,” he said. “Normally, if you are level-par after three holes you’d be raging, but today we (Gallacher and playing partner Louis Oosthuizen) were quite happy with that.

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“I didn’t really finish well. After birdies at the tenth and 12th, I three-putted the 13th and that stopped my momentum.”

Unlike many in the field, Gallacher had experienced the tougher conditions at the venue during one of his previous visits.

“These are the conditions the course was designed to be played in,” he observed. “It’s a beast in these conditions. It was so different (from the first three days) it was a joke.

“At the (par-5) second yesterday, it was driver, driver, 5-iron and today it was a driver, 2-iron and a 6-iron. That shows you how hard it is in the wind. But that’s links golf for you. It’s the same at St Andrews.

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“I’ve played the course in these conditions. It’s just been benign weather [for the Scottish Open) and if it had stayed flat calm the winning score would have been 24 or 25 under.

“Any links can play totally different when the wind blows.”

Marc Warren, whose wife Laura is from Edinburgh, was on course to win in the Highlands when he held a three-shot lead with five holes to play.

But a faltering finish proved costly as he had to settle for a share of third, missing out on the play-off by a stroke.

“I might need a little help to get to sleep tonight,” said Warren. “It’s going to be disappointing watching The Open (for which former Omega Mission Hills World Cup winner has never qualified). I had it in my hands.”

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Singh’s last-day performance in the Highlands – he closed with a five-under 67 in difficult conditions – was a stark contrast to his first experience of links golf in Britain.

That was for the qualifying rounds of the British Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl and he shot rounds of 87 and 84.

“I thought ‘My God, this is tough’. I wasn’t used to wearing raingear.”

Molinari finished runner-up for the second week running, having also been pipped for the title in the French Open in Paris.

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Victory on this occasion would have taken him from tenth to second in the Ryder Cup standings, knocking Paul Lawrie down a spot.

But Molinari, a member of the winning European team at Celtic Manor two years ago, is still looking good for a second successive cap at Medinah in September.

“It’s disappointing not to finish it off, but it was a good and positive week,” said Molinari.

• EDINBURGH’S Andrew Oldcorn secured a top-50 finish in the US Senior Open at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion, Michigan.

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He closed with a 72 for a total of 286, 16 shots behind Englishman Roger Chapman as he claimed a second over-50s 
major this season.

• LOTHIANS-BASED Jamie McLeary fell to a disappointing seven over par round of 78 in the Credit Suisse Challenge on the Challenge Tour.

He finished in a tie for 37th place, having entered the day just four shots off the lead.