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Otto leads but Gallacher stakes claim

(Photo: Getty Images)
A stunning back nine of six under par 30 helped Stephen Gallacher resuscitate his Ryder Cup dream at the 71st Italian Open presented by Damiani just a few hours after his hopes of qualifying for Paul McGinley's European Team had been in serious need of life support.

The Scotsman, who needs to win or finish second (alongside no more than one other player) in Italy to take the last of nine available spots on the European Team to face the USA at Gleneagles next month, was informed that South African Hennie Otto and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger had carded respective rounds of 62 and 66 to move 15 and 12 shots clear of him as he prepared to begin his second round at Circolo Golf Torino "“ La Mandria.

An eagle at the first hole got Gallacher off to the perfect start. He followed that with a birdie on the fifth before a double bogey on the sixth dealt a life-threatening blow to his lifelong Ryder Cup dream.

But like any world class player on the fringes of making The Ryder Cup team, Gallacher roared back into contention with a sensational back nine that saw him make six birdies to take a huge chunk out of Otto's lead and give himself a chance to achieve his goal of a top two finish with 36 holes to go.

"Well, when you are 15 behind the guy in the lead and 12 behind second place knowing you need to win or finish second it is a strange feeling, but I knew I had to go low at some stage and it was just nice to get a run going on the back nine," said Gallacher after his round.

"I didn't watch any of Hennie's round. It was just when I got here and was having lunch someone said he was ten under for the day. I kind of though "˜my goodness' but there are two rounds to go and a lot can happen in golf. As long as I have a chance going into the last round then I will be delighted.

"Given that I needed to go low today "“ usually you can build and build on it but I needed to go low today "“ I was definitely more aggressive than I usually would have been on a Friday. I need to finish first or second and I was more concentrating on the second place today. But there is a long way to go and if I can keep playing like that then I will have a chance to win or finish second."

Otto's outstanding performance saw the former Italian Open Champion, who returned to the game after double back surgery eight weeks ago, make an eagle, nine birdies and a single bogey as he charged three clear of Wiesberger and six ahead of Englishman Ross Fisher who carded his own 66.

"I actually didn't notice how good the score was until we were on 17 and I made bogey there," said the leader. "As we were walking off the green my caddie said we were heading for a ten under round. I started counting and realised he was right so it was nice to birdie the last there and finish at ten under for the day.

"I just like the course here. Sometimes it just suits your eye and I have found that with a lot of courses in Italy in the past and it is the same again this week. If you win a tournament in one country you tend to get good feelings when you return there, even if it is to a difference course.

"It would be nice to win but I don't want to hurt anyone's Ryder Cup chances. I can't play in it but there are a few guys here that I would hope can get in the team."

Wade Ormsby was the only Australian to make the cut the South Australian though well back in 57th position.


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