Stephen Gallacher eyes 2018 success with new caddie by his side
Stephen Gallacher is starting his 2018 campaign with a new caddie and hopes to hit the ground running this week after heading to the UAE early to shake off his winter rust.
The Lothians star has fellow Scot John Dempster on his bag for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after parting ways with Irishman Ryan McGuigan at the end of last season.
Dempster has caddied on the European Tour for more than 25 years and recorded three wins, most recently helping Krstoffer Broberg land the BMW Masters in 2015.
“John is a great big lad and I’m delighted to get him,” said Gallacher, who is among seven Scots teeing up in the $3 million event starting tomorrow at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
“I’ve known him for a long time. In fact, he caddied for Gordon Sherry when I first came on the Tour.
“Like me, he came out here a bit earlier so that he could get used to my game and it’s all going well.”
Gallacher hasn’t played since the Turkish Airlines Open last November, when he was encouraged by his first performance with a new grip. He’s now hoping to get his 2018 season off to a positive start in both this event and next week’s Dubai Desert Classic, which he won in 2013 and 2014.
“I flew on here on December 30, coming out with the family for ten days,” the 43-year-old told the Evening News on the practice putting green at this week’s venue.
“I’ve done a lot of practice, played a bit with my son, Jack, as well and I also played in the Yas Invitational at the weekend.
“It’s just good to get back into things in good weather and, unfortunately, I can’t practice much on mats back home due to the problems I’ve had in the past with my wrist. Coming out here has been a no-brainer for me.
“I think my short-game has benefitted the most. When I worked with (putting guru) Phil Kenyon in Dubai, it was only me and Rory McIlroy for four our five days as a lot of guys were out in either Asia or South Africa. I’ve done a lot of work on my putting as I try to improve that. I feel as though I have done the technical work and now it’s a case of trying to let it freeflow.”
As well as getting himself ready for this week’s event, which has world No.1 Dustin Johnson and the returning Rory McIlroy as its star attractions, Gallacher has also been trying to help Tom Buchanan for the biggest week of his golfing life.
A former Duddingston assistant pro who has been based at Al Ain in the UAE for the last six years, Buchanan won a local qualifier for the event and played nine holes with Gallacher on Monday.
“That was great as it helped settle me down a bit,” said Buchanan, who celebrated his 38th birthday yesterday by joining the likes of Johnson, McIlroy and Olympic champion Justin Rose for a ‘Class of 2018’ photograph in front of the iconic Falcon Clubhouse at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
“I picked his brains and got a feel for the place and being around these world-class players, which is a bit of a step up from a PGA medal out here. It’s a case of trying to control everything and try and treat it as a PGA medal. I think that’s the hardest bit.”
Buchanan will have some familiar faces, including his former boss Alastair McLean, in the crowd when he tees off on Thursday in the company of England’s Paul Waring and Ricardo Gouevia of Portugal.
“Alistair is flying out and my brother-in-law, Gregor Munro, is coming with him,” he said.
“I’ve also got a couple of old members flying in from London and I think we’ve got a couple of buses coming up from the club on Friday.
“It’s going to be a pretty mental week and I’m just going to try and enjoy it as much as I can.”