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Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Thursday, 8 July 2010 16:34 UK

Gallacher in rude health at Loch Lomond

Barclays Scottish Open, Loch Lomond, 8-11 July
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, Red Button, BBC Sport website and BBC Radio Scotland, with updates on BBC Radio 5 live Full coverage details

Stephen Gallacher at the final tee on Thursday
Gallacher was in fine form on the opening day of the Scottish Open

By Clive Lindsay
BBC Scotland at Loch Lomond

Stephen Gallacher's opening 67 at the Scottish Open was not just an impressive round of golf but a significant staging post in his recovery from a debilitating illness that led to fears of lung cancer.

Exactly a year ago, Gallacher played at Loch Lomond against doctor's orders - and it was the last time he hit a golf ball for nearly three months as a viral infection took hold.

Professional footballer Jim Hamilton knows Gallacher well - and the battle the 35-year-old Scot has had to get his career back on course.

"My son, Matthew, plays in the same boys club in Linlithgow as Stephen's son, Jack, so I've got to know him quite well," said Hamilton, who was among those lending their backing to Gallacher as he shot four under par to feature prominently on the leaderboard.

"There was a time when he was very low. He had a couple of operations on his wrist as well, so he has come through a lot.

"It got to a stage when he just could not do it any more, but he has come back fitter and better than ever."

Hamilton, who was taking time off looking for his 11th professional club after being released by Livingston, believes there is further progress to come from his friend.

"He was in the high 400s in the world rankings not long ago and now he is closing on the top 100," said the 34-year-old.

Gallacher's father, Jim, was not making any bold predictions for the remainder of the tournament, or next week's Open.

"I don't want to bum him up too much," he said. "But, if he keeps on the way he is playing, it's quite possible he can get into the world's top 50."

I was just idling along, underachieving a wee bit, and I thought to myself, how can I get back to where I want to be - in contention?

Stephen Gallacher

Missing so much of last season through illness meant that Gallacher was in danger of losing his place on the European Tour earlier this season.

"His goal at the start of the season was to keep his card and he did that comfortably, now he can relax," said his father.

"His next goal was to qualify for the Open and he did that comfortably. Now his goal is a place in the world's top 100 and to get into the Race to Dubai.

"The trouble flared in Dubai last year when he was coughing and coughing.

"He played here last year when he shouldn't have, but he had so many friends and family coming along he did not want to let them down.

"He was on steroids and steroids make you feel okay. The big worry at the time was that it was lung cancer, but he is back to full fitness now."

Gallacher has been renowned as one of the best players tee to green - and one of the worst putters - on the European Tour and says he realised a few home truths during his enforced lay-off.

"I was just idling along, underachieving a wee bit, and I thought to myself, how can I get back to where I want to be - in contention?" he said, revealing that he heeded advice from his famous uncle, former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher.

"In his days, he was 27-and-a-half putts a round or something like that and I was 32," he revealed. "He said, you have to try to get it better than 30 and I've been working hard at it."

Hard work and a new putting grip later, Gallacher has made 13 of the last 14 cuts on the European Tour and recently finished fourth at the PGA Championship and the Wales Open.

His 67 at Loch Lomond came despite several more birdie attempts sliding, agonisingly just past the hole. There could, indeed, be much more to come from Stephen Gallacher.



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