Thursday, January 29, 2015

Stephen Gallacher two off pace in Dubai title defence

Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger continued his excellent recent form to take the first-round lead with a flawless, eight-under-par 64 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic today.
Wiesberger, who was sixth in Abu Dhabi and third in Qatar after being pipped by playing partner Branden Grace in the final round, carded eight birdies in an impressive round.

That was enough to top a star-studded leaderboard, with former World Number One Lee Westwood, South Africa Open winner Andy Sullivan, American Peter Uihlein and big-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts a shot further back on 65.
Current World Number One Rory McIlroy and defending champion Stephen Gallacher also made excellent starts to hit the six-under 66 mark and start the second day in joint sixth position alongside another Scot, Marc Warren.

McIlroy, attempting to turn his recent good form into victory at Emirates Golf Club, had one wayward drive that led to a bogey at the ninth – his last hole – and left him two adrift of Wiesberger.
On a day of low scoring in benign conditions, Wiesberger was only two under at the turn but made six birdies on the back nine – including five in succession from the 13th.
“It was a solid back nine I have to say,” said the 29 year old, who won both his European Tour titles in 2012.
“I got on a run at the end and could have birdied my last six holes there. Once I got the pace right on the greens, which were a bit slower than I expected, it went nicely.
“I've always played well here at the Majelis; I know I can make a lot of birdies out here.
“It feels good right now - I feel quite happy with what I expect out of my game. When I'm in trouble, I know I can scramble well, which is the part you don't see right now because I’m hitting the ball quite nicely.”
Colsaerts had also reached eight under par but, like McIlroy, he paid the price for missing the ninth fairway.
Colsaerts was pleased with his opening round but felt his driving, usually one of his major strengths, stopped him from going even lower.
"I feel very good, I was in the zone all day," he said.
"I still felt like I left a few out there, I could have easily been ten under today.
"It's mixed feelings because I was hitting it wayward off the tee and then certain shots into the green I must have been looking like I was owning the place."
Sullivan, whose win in Ekurhuleni earlier this season was his first on The European Tour, carded five birdies alongside a 20 foot eagle on the par five 18th.
The former Walker Cup star was paired with McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, and admitted he was thrilled to play with two Major Champions.
“It was the best day of my life out there playing with these guys,” he said.
“It's an absolute pleasure and to be fair, it took some - not pressure off - but I didn't really look at the leaderboard today. I was just watching those guys play golf.
“It was just absolutely fantastic - one of the best days of my life - and to play the way I did, as well, was brilliant.
“I can't really put into words at the moment how happy I am and just to play with those guys, it's a dream come true. You watch them on the telly, winning Majors, playing in Ryder Cups and then you're playing with them, and then to play the way I did, it's just an unbelievable feeling.”
At the opposite end of the experience spectrum, former World Number One Westwood also kept a bogey-free card and birdied his last two holes.
A 40ft putt at the fifth was the highlight of the 41 year old’s round, and afterwards he said: “I played well; I hit a lot of good shots.
“My iron shots were pretty sharp and I putted nicely, but if I was being critical, I didn't make enough of the par fives.”
Rising star Uihlein birdied eight of his first 13 holes and at that stage was on course to better Ernie Els’ course record 61.
But after three straight pars the American bogeyed the 17th and failed to cash in at the par five last.
“I think when you get the ball rolling and started on the right line, it generally seems to roll in out here because they are so good,” he said. “I felt like I had a lot of good opportunities converted.”
McIlroy has finished second in his last three events and was returning to the scene of his first professional win six years ago, where he has secured four consecutive top-ten finishes.
After starting on the ninth, the 25 year old got off to a flying start with birdies on his first two holes and another on the 18th got him to the turn in 34.
Four birdies in six holes from the third looked like giving McIlroy a share of the lead, but his last tee shot of the day finished in thick rough close to a fairway bunker.
"I'd have been disappointed if I didn't shoot anything below 68 today, especially with the conditions and 66 is a nice start," he said.
"I'd like to see it blow a little bit and make it more of a challenging golf course, you still need to hit the shots but it would be nice to play in some conditions that are a little different than this."
Defending champion Stephen Gallacher, looking for a hat-trick of wins in the event, recovered from hitting his ball in the water at the 18th to match Westwood’s inward 31 and join McIlroy, German Max Kieffer, Dane Anders Hansen, England’s Seve Benson, last week’s runner-up Marc Warren and South Africa’s Hennie Otto on six under.

SCOTSWATCH: Paul Lawrie is lying T30 on three-under 69 with birdies at the short fourth, fifth, long 10th and long 18th. He dropped one shot, at the sixth.
Fellow Aberdonian Richie Ramsay and Craig Lee after T54 on the 71 mark.
David Drysdale and Chris Doak could struggle to beat the halfway cut. They are T81 on 72 while Scott Jamieson is really up against it in this class of field with a 74 for T108.

Par 72
64 B Weisberger (Austria)
65 P Uihlein (USA), N Colsaerts (Belgium), A Sullivan (England), L Westwood (England)
66 S Benson (England), A Hansen (Denmark), H Otto (S Africa), M Warren (Scotland), S Gallacher (Scotland), R McIlroy (N Ireland), M Kieffer (Germany)

67 G McDowell (N Ireland), M Kaymer (Germany) (T13).
69 P Lawrie (Scotland) (T30)
71 R Ramsay (Scotland), C Lee (Scotland) (T54)
72 D Drysdale (Scotland), C Doak (Scotland) (T81)
74 S Jamieson (Scotland) (T108).





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