Wales Open: Paul McGinley takes centre stage but all thoughts are with Bernard Gallacher


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The Independent Online

A tale of two Ryder Cup captains dominated minds today during the second round of the Wales Open. But for very different reasons.

There was deep concern all round when the news broke at lunchtime that 64-year-old Bernard Gallacher had suffered a serious heart attack in Aberdeen on Thursday night and was critically ill in hospital.

Meanwhile, out on the course, there was the shock appearance of 46-year-old Paul McGinley’s name in the top 10 on the leaderboard. The Wales Open signals the start of the year-long European money list table, which will provide four automatic members of McGinley’s team to take on the Americans at Gleneagles.

Should the Dubliner pick up the £300,000 winners’ cheque on Sunday night he will lead the first edition of that table, although he has stated firmly that he does not want to be a playing captain.

However, the serious thoughts concerned Gallacher, who captained Europe three times – losing by close margins to the Americans in the “War on the Shore” at Kiawah Island in 1991 and The Belfry two years later. But he was also responsible for turning that losing streak around, inspiring the 14½-13½ European victory at Oak Hill in 1995.

And the concern about his health arose when there were reports that he had collapsed while attending a corporate dinner. The exact details were not being released by Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where he is being treated.

But his nephew Stephen Gallacher, who was playing in the Wales Open, said: “I understand that he is critical but stable. My family is in disarray at the moment and it is obviously a worrying situation. We are all anxious.”

He in fact pulled out of the tournament after playing only three holes of the second round, blaming pain from a back injury that has plagued him for several months. But it was not just coincidence that he caught an early flight back to Scotland.

As he did so George O’Grady, the European Tour’s chief executive, issued a short statement, saying: “We are in touch with Bernard’s wife Lesley and the Gallacher family and, obviously, we join with everyone in wishing Bernard a speedy recovery.”

Out on the course, as his playing partner and first-day leader Espen Kofstad struggled to build on his opening 64 on Thursday, McGinley was showing the Ryder Cup hopeful how golf should be played.

He started from the 11th and moved to three under par for the day and to within one shot of the little-known Welsh leader Liam Bond, from nearby St Pierre, with back-to-back birdies at the first and second hole. He did suffer a bogey at the par-three seventh but when he signed for 69 McGinley was only two shots off the lead.