2 February 2013
DUBAI, Feb 2 – Stephen Gallacher shot two stunning eagles on the back nine which propelled him to the top of the leaderboard going into the final round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Saturday.
One off the pace overnight, the Scotsman defied intermittent rain showers to light up the course by mixing his two eagles with six birdies in his sizzling 62 to go 21-under for the tournament, a good three shots ahead of South Africa's Richard Sterne, who was in sole passion of the lead in the opening two rounds.
In the process, the nephew of former Ryder Cup Captain Bernard eclipsed the tournament's lowest first 54-hole score of 20-under recorded by Tiger Woods in 2001. That year, the former number one failed to hold on to the lead and eventually lost to Thomas Bjorn, but it is a story for another day.
"It's only Saturday and I will think about the record tomorrow," said Gallacher who tapped in for eagle on the 13th after a smooth eight iron from 173 yards left him with a simple putt from two feet. On the 18th, he holed his bunker shot from 25 yards to string together the best round of his career since turning pro in 1995.
"I'm pretty familiar with this course and I was just trying to make as many birdies as I could. The turning point came when I birdied the 11th and 12th and then eagled the 13th," said the 111th-ranked Scotsman, who finished second last year in Dubai.
"Certainly, I have been playing better for the last three to four years. I've had a lot of close shaves, a couple of seconds last year. I think you need a bit of luck to get the job done. It is tough to win, but if you've done it before and can do it again," said Gallacher, who recorded his only win on the European Tour in 2004 at the Dunhill Links Championship on home soil at St Andrews
His closest rival Sterne produced an excellent round of six-under 66, but it was not good enough to retain the lead. "I am in a decent position and feeling a bit more comfortable since I am not leading going into the last round.
"I made a couple of long putts today, but missed the short ones. Hopefully, they tomorrow they all go in," said Sterne.
Thorbjorn Olesen is sitting alone in third position after signing off with a 67 for a total of 16-under, a good five shots off the pace. Two shots behind Olesen on 14-under comes the trio of Chile's Felipe Aguilar (66), India's Jeev Milkha Singh (67) and England's Tommy Fleetwood (69).
The Indian ace believes he is very much in the mix. "If I shoot 65 tomorrow, I think that should get the job done, but it all depends. I've heard it's going to be quite windy tomorrow. We'll have to wait and see what happens," said Singh, who is also a golf in DUBAi ambassador.
Westwood, three times a runner-up in the tournament, improved from 26th to ninth with a 66, but it still meant he went from six behind to nine adrift.
Sergio Garcia, troubled by a sore shoulder all week, managed only a 71 and dropped from eight to joint 19th.
Gallacher's compatriot Chris Doak had 11 birdies and no bogeys in the first 42 holes, but found the water at the short seventh, took five and finished the day in a tie for tenth.