Gallacher takes Dubai lead; breaks scoring record
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Stephen Gallacher of Scotland shot a 10-under 62 on Saturday to take a three-shot lead at the Dubai Desert Classic and break a three-round scoring record set by Tiger Woods 12 years ago.
The 111th-ranked Gallacher, who just missed out on a playoff last year in Dubai, is looking for his first European Tour win since 2004. He holed a 25-yard bunker shot on the 18th for an eagle to finish with a 21-under 195 in rare rainy conditions in the desert. That improved on Woods’ tournament mark by a shot and just missed tying the course record of 61 set in 1994 by Ernie Els.
“It’s the best round I’ve had,” Gallacher said. “I was just trying to make as many birdies as I could.”
Overnight leader Richard Sterne (66), who also shot 62 in the opening round Thursday, tried to keep pace. He made long birdie putts on the eighth and 11th holes and a 45-footer from the fringe on No. 15. Thorbjorn Olesen (67) finished five shots back in third place, producing two bogeys on the back nine — his first of the tournament.
Lee Westwood had a 66 to move into sole possession of ninth. Like his horse Rerouted that came from behind Thursday to win its race in Dubai on Thursday, the Englishman said he felt an outside chance of catching the leaders. He finished second last year.
Sergio Garcia struggled at times with a nagging shoulder injury, shooting 71 to fall into a tie for 19th.
Gallacher moved into a share of the lead after two early birdies and then went alone atop the leaderboard with a birdie on No. 5. With Sterne, Olesen and England’s Tommy Fleetwood (69) close behind, Gallacher made his move on the back nine with two birdies in the first three holes. He shot an eagle on the 13th after his 173-yard approach shot hit the pin and stopped 2 feet from the hole for the easy putt.
Gallacher then had four straight pars before another eagle on the last after his stellar bunker shot.
“Came out perfect and obviously it went in, a great way to finish,” he said.
Gallacher is in the running to end his nine-year drought on the tour that dates back to his win at the Dunhill Links Championship where he beat Graeme McDowell in a playoff.
“It would be great to know that you can do it again. I’ve certainly been playing better the last three or four years,” the 38-year-old Gallacher said. “I’ve had a lot of close shaves, a couple of seconds last year, second the year before ... It is tough to win but if you’ve done it before, you can do it again.”
Despite losing the lead, Sterne said he was “happy” with his round that included seven birdies and only an opening bogey.
Olesen, who joined Nike this year alongside Rory McIlroy and won his first tournament last year, at times look upset with himself on the back nine. The Dane badly missed several fairways with his drive and then three-putted on 16 for one of two bogeys before finishing with one of his seven birdies on the 18th.
“It was a pretty good day but I was hoping for something more,” the 23-year-old Olesen said. “I thought I could have made a few more birdies.”