Thursday, August 28, 2014



Stephen Gallacher, pictured, was unable to build on an excellent start to the Italian Open today and now faces an uphill task to guarantee his spot on Europe's Ryder Cup team.
The Scot is the only man capable of moving into the automatic qualifying places in the final counting event, with a top-two finish in Turin enough to dislodge former US Open champion Graeme McDowell from the side.
The 39-year-old from Bathgate, a nephew of Bernard Gallacher, was quickly moving in the right direction with two early birdies at Circolo Golf Torino, but three bogeys in the space of four holes on the back-nine undermined his push for a Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles.
He did sink a lengthy birdie putt three holes from home to ensure he finished with a level-par 72, but that was already five shots behind early clubhouse leaders, John Hahn and Gareth Maybin, who both posted 67s. Later the gap between the Scot and the leaders widened to six when Francesco Molinari and Bernd Weisberger shared the overnight lead with 66s.
Starting from the 10th, Gallacher pulled his opening drive into the rough but produced a superb recovery shot to the back edge of the green and safely two-putted for par.
The Scot was then involved in a lengthy search for playing partner Edoardo Molinari's ball on the 11th, but maintained his concentration and after the ball was found with seconds of the 5min time limit to spare, eventually fired in a superb approach which was an inch away from dropping into the hole for an eagle.
Gallacher also got up and down from left of the green on the par-five 12th to move to two-under-par, but dropped his first shot of the day on the 220yd par-3 16th, missing from 10 feet for par after a poor chip from the back of the green.
A better chip ensured he avoided the same fate on the 17th and the Dubai Desert Classic champion almost got back to two-under in style on the 18th, his recovery from a greenside bunker catching the edge of the hole and spinning out.
Gallacher did not have to wait long to card another birdie on the par-five first, but promptly gave that shot back on the second and had to hole from 10 feet to avoid three-putting the third.
After a bogey on the fourth, he then dropped another at the short fifth after finding a greenside bunker with his tee-shot as the wheels threatened to come off.
He hit back bravely with a clutch putt for par at the sixth and repaired some of the earlier damage with his fourth birdie of the day at seven, before parring home.
However, he will be aware that he needs to make up plenty of ground in Friday's second round to keep alive his hopes of automatic qualification.
Gallacher headed straight for the practice range after his round..
"I'm a bit disappointed because I threw away a couple of shots midway through my round but I'll hit a few balls this afternoon and iron a few things out," Gallacher said.
"It's okay for the first day and I am only one good score away from the top of the leaderboard.
"I didn't drive it too well and the rough is very penal. The greens are also getting firmer so if you get out of position it makes it very difficult.

"I know I have to finish first or second, that's not going to change, so I'm not putting any pressure on myself. Once you get out on the course you just try to birdie every hole. That's the easy part. It's when you finish you think about The Ryder Cup.

John Hahn made true the old adage about the early bird catching the worm as he claimed a share of the early first round clubhouse lead
Hahn, one of a record four Americans to come through last November’s Qualifying School, had missed six cuts in his last nine events.

The 25 year old, out in the second group out at 7:40am and began the day bemoaning another early start, but ended it delighted with a 67 featuring six birdies and one bogey to join Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin on five under par.

"I've just had so many early starts recently," Hahn said. "I was up before 5am today but the one advantage is that you're always going to have smooth greens and it was nice to take advantage.

“I had a good game plan today that I executed well.

“It was pretty good all day - you have to stay out of the rough because it was so penal and I managed to do that pretty well today. It was a case of making aggressive swings at conservative targets and I always think that if you can execute that then you will usually benefit from it.”

Maybin, three times a runner-up on The European Tour but without a victory in more than 150 events, also had six birdies with his only blemish of the day coming at the seventh.

“You really have to be straight off the tee here and I managed to do that today – hopefully I can keep doing for three days and keep climbing the leaderboard,” said Maybin, who posted a top-ten finish in Denmark two weeks ago.

“This kind of course is more suited to me than last week – it is not too long and you have to hit some low shots off the tee and there aren’t many holes where you have to hit driver.”

Of the afternoon starters, in-form Austian Bernd Wiesberger made the biggest move.
Having finished runner-up on home soil two months ago and played in the final Sunday pairing alongside Rory McIlroy at the US PGA Championship, the two-time European Tour winner went to the turn in 33



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