Gallacher's wedge shot wraps up 'dream' title

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The Independent Online

A famous name once more adorns a European Tour trophy after Stephen Gallacher won the Dunhill Links Championship yesterday at St Andrews. Gallacher is the nephew of Bernard Gallacher, a former winner of the Order of Merit and three times the Ryder Cup captain. A special maiden victory for the 29-year-old Scot was made more so coming in front of friends and family at the "Home of Golf".

Unlike his famous uncle, Gallacher's professional career made a slow start despite success in the amateur game. This is his eighth full season on the European Tour and taking it slowly and persevering is probably the ideal combination for the tortuous rounds of this pro-am event.

By winning against such a strong field, Gallacher earned £445,000 to jump to 12th on the Order of Merit, and he will no longer stand 157th when the new world rankings are released today. His victory, though, was a hard earned one.

It arrived only in a play-off when Graeme McDowell put his approach at the first into the Swilken Burn. A 67 on the Old Course had put Gallacher at 19-under-par, a score McDowell tied with a closing 68. Luke Donald, who was poised to win for a third time in seven events, had to settle for third place alongside Ian Poulter.

Gallacher had put McDowell under pressure in the play-off by hitting a wedge to a couple of feet. "It was the best shot I hit all week," he said. "This really is like a dream come true."

Once again on the Old Course, it was the 17th hole that prolonged the drama, although on a bitingly cold afternoon, not in a way that did the competitors any favours. With the hole playing at its toughest into the wind, and a couple of rulings in the earlier groups, the leaders all ended up on the tee at the same time.

The problem was that they were in three different groups and there was a delay of around half an hour before each could hit the most crucial tee shot of the day. It was hardly surprising that all three took bogeys.

Gallacher had made a brilliant assault on the final round with birdies at the fourth, fifth and seventh on the way out, and then at the 10th, 12th and 13th as he made his way out of the loop at the far end of the course.

Having pulled his drive left at the 17th, he laid up and pitched on, but could not hole from 25 feet for par. Both McDowell and Donald took three putts from the very front of the green.

With Gallacher having a par the last, McDowell saw his approach spin back off the green, but, having left his putt 10 feet short, he holed to make the play-off. Donald then had an 18-footer for a birdie and a place in extra time, but it came up 18 inches short.

Fred Couples, the former Masters champion, and Craig Heatley, a businessman from New Zealand who has won the Pebble Beach Pro-am on the US Tour, won the team competition. Gianluca Vialli, playing with Emanuele Canonica, tied for second.