Gallacher & Ramsay Send Saltire High In Abu Dhabi.

Stephen Gallacher and Richie Ramsay combined to send the Saltire flying high in the UAE capital with a pair of 68s on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Both Scots had been sharing the lead early in their rounds before settling for a share of eighth place and only just two strokes from the lead.

European No. 1 and defending Abu Dhabi champion, Tommy Fleetwood along with Japan’s Hideto Tanihara shared the first day honours with six-under par 66s while four-time Major winning Rory McIlroy marked his return to competition with a patient but frustrating 69.

Stephen Gallacher with new caddy, John Dempster on day one 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. (Photo – European Tour/Gettys)

McIlroy’s round included 34 putt while he stood over 17 putts for birdie and made just three.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, and playing alongside Fleetwood and McIlroy, also went to the front early but ended in signing for a 72.

Gallacher, who has fellow Scot John Dempster as his new caddy, clearly reaped the rewards of spending the past three weeks working on his game in nearby Dubai, and where he won back-to-back Dubai Desert Classic titles.

The now 43-year old Gallacher kick-started his first round of his  22nd season on the European Tour with a hat-trick of birdies from his second hole before moving into the lead with a ninth hole birdie.

Gallacher then muscled his way to five-under with a birdie on his 14th hole ahead of his only bogey at his 16th hole.

“It was great round as I played lovely the front nine and gave myself a lot of chances to get to four-under ,” he said.

“I only missed one green of the was never really outside 15-, 20-foot. Holed a few putts. Didn’t really play that great on the back nine, but you know, 4-under is pretty good since not having competed since the first of November.

“There is still a wee bit of rust in there but gives me something to build on for the weekend.”

Ramsay was likewise delighted in also his first event of the New Year and duplicating Gallacher’s four birdies and just one bogey though with Ramsay commencing his round from the first and moving into a then share of the lead with a fourth birdie of his round at the night.

He then pared the next eight holed ahead of a closing hole birdie.

And Ramsay also like Gallacher clearly benefitted from being in the Middle East for early new season practice under the watch of coach, Ian Rae.

“I am very happy, probably the best opening round of a new season I’ve ever had,” he said.

“My ball-striking was really good. I got four new clubs in the bag, so I love the added distance off the tee and I drove it well which is key around here. Just very consistent.

“So really pleased as my attitude was also good. Everything was really nice. I think just coming out here, getting good practice in the nice weather was key to that.”

And Middle East based Scott Tom Buchanan could be pleased with his efforts in signing for a two-over par 74

The 38-year old has been for six years Director of Golf at the Al Ain Golf Club and found his way into the event through a Monday qualifier.

Other Scots –

David Drysdale – 71; Marc Warren – 73; Paul Lawrie – 74; Scott Jamieson – 75;

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