Stephen Gallacher unable to build on fast start in first round of Italian Open
Last Updated: 28/08/14 7:28pm
Stephen Gallacher was unable to build on an excellent start to the Italian Open 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 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 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 is six behind first-round leaders Francesco Molinari and Bernd Wiesberger.
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 five-minute time limit to spare, eventually fired in a superb approach which was an inch away from dropping into the hole for an eagle.
Run of bogeys
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 220-yard par-three 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.