Stephen Gallacher makes most of support from Celtic men

Stephen Gallacher and his fellow Celtic fans will hope yesterday offered a hint of what is to come after the way he responded to an encounter with Neil Lennon and Johan Mjallby at Loch Lomond.

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The boot was on the other foot as the 35-year-old from Bathgate found himself being cheered on by the Parkhead club’s new management team, who reached over the ropes to shake his hand and murmur a few words of encouragement as he headed from the 17th green to the tee at the last.

Duly inspired, Gallacher had, 10 minutes later, rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt that briefly put him into the top three.

“I played the hole really well,” he said. “My caddie said to take a three-wood off the tee because of the wind and I hit into the perfect position, which left me an eight-iron and I hit a really good putt.”

Even after Raphael Jacquelin, in the following group, rolled in a 50-footer to secure third outright, the Scot remained in a lucrative share of fourth, due reward for striking the ball as solidly as anyone from tee to green throughout the event.

Playing with John Daly and Alvaro Quiros, two of the mightiest hitters in the game, Gallacher more than held his own off the tee and his closing three-under-par 68 matched the best of a day which ended with only three men breaking 70. Consequently, ahead of The Open Championship, he was entitled to be satisfied with his form as he heads for a course where he has won before.

That was at the Dunhill Masters six years ago when he claimed his only European Tour win, holding off Graeme McDowell, the player who showed every European what can be done with the right attitude and work ethic by winning the US Open at Pebble Beach last month.

The money earned could nudge Gallacher towards what had seemed a distant goal of getting into the world’s top 100 and, as he put it, “maybe nick into the US PGA”.

The only other Scot in The Open field who managed to play all four rounds at Loch Lomond endured a rougher day as Martin Laird battled through the worst of the conditions to register a three-over-par 74.

“For those first five or six holes, I remembered why I went to America.

It was blowing a gale and pouring down,” said the Arizona-based 27-year-old.

Perversely, the ex-Hilton Park man played the front nine better than the back, but believes his form is improving ahead of St Andrews, where it will be home from home for him since his parents live just up the Fife coast.

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