Stephen Gallacher continues good form at Dubai Desert Classic

Defending champion is tied for third with a score of 66 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. John McAuley reports from Dubai.

Stephen Gallacher, left, finished with a 6-under-par 66 on Thursday. is Pawan Singh / The National
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DUBAI // For all the pre-tournament chat about the pressures of playing alongside Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy during these first two rounds, Stephen Gallacher, easily the most understated of the threesome, on Thursday produced an answer that attested to his status.

“Normal threeball,” said the Scot, with a shrug, following his 6-under-par 66.

Nothing to see here, folks; move along. Gallacher is entitled to display a unique brand of insouciance, though, given that, until Sunday at least, he counts as the most recent winner of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

The defending champion more or less picked up from where he left off last year, when he equalled the 24-year-old tournament scoring record at 22-under.

A rather large chunk of that success can be laid firmly at the door of five eagles, and Gallacher kept that good thing going upon his competitive return to the Majlis.

Nestled snuggly between five birdies, he picked up two shots on the par-5 18th, thanks to a drive that cut the dogleg and, in theory, measured 387 yards.

From there, he stuck a 7-iron to four feet and let his putter do the rest. The eagle had landed.

“Five last year, so only got four to go,” he remarked. “I missed a tiddler for par on 11 [his second hole] so it took 18 to get me going.”

Not that there was a shortage of electric charge around him. As one third of the marquee trio, Gallacher was performing in front of comfortably the day’s thickest gallery.

Woods, the current world No 1, and McIlroy, the man he usurped at the summit, drew the greatest cheers throughout, but Gallacher remained unaffected. Anyway, he had his own personal fan base.

“Quite a lot here,” he said. “All my family and a few friends, as well. That Glasgow to Dubai flight’s been hammered, I think.”

They would be pretty jacked by his performance. Gallacher may not have kept tight to McIlroy – few would have, as the Northern Irishman was at his imperious best to post a 63 and lead the tournament – but he did better Woods by two. All in a day’s work.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” said Gallacher, presently 67th in the global rankings. “This is where you want to be. And where you want to be on Sunday, as well.

“I wouldn’t mind playing with one of them Sunday, as last off. See you at 12.30pm.”

Before that, Gallacher has a bit to do. Although, such was the shape of his game, that the only taxing thing on the agenda on Thursday night was a brief period spent in the gym. The rest would just be replenishing energy levels after an early start.

“Knackered,” Gallacher said.

Having seen first-hand McIlroy and Woods, he was still wide-eyed enough to register that, come tournament midpoint, anywhere near the top two would represent a promising opening few rounds.

“You can’t win it today, but you can put yourself in position, so hanging in,” Gallacher said.

“Just keep going, play my own game and try to stay as close to Rory and Tiger as I can.”