‘How are you feeling going into this week?’ It’s a stock question that usually prompts a stock answer, but rarely has my opening gambit been greeted with such steel as that displayed by Stephen Gallacher ahead of the Dubai Desert Classic. ‘Absoutely fantastic. I cannot wait for it.’ If ever there was a man with cause to be so bullish then it is surely the Scot who is chasing a third consecutive crown at the Emirates Golf Club.
‘I don’t know what it is about this place,’ he explains. ‘But I wish I could bottle it! It’s just a great golf course, a fair course and it really seems to suit my eye. I’m very familiar with it, I come out on holiday to Dubai and play it then so I know it well. It’s almost like my home course in that respect.’
As well as securing his third European Tour win here last year, 2014 saw Gallacher make a winning Ryder Cup debut in his homeland at Gleneagles. A festive break in Aviemore offered chance for reflection but the 40-year-old refuses to dwell on the past. ‘It was great to take a few weeks off with the family. You reflect on last year and say it was great but I want to look forward now and set new goals,’ he says, that steely glint returning. ‘Having played the Ryder Cup you want to get back in that and I’ve looked at the scheduling for when it (Ryder Cup qualifying) starts so I can peak at the right time.’
Gallacher will play 12 events in America this year as part of that amended schedule but has his eyes firmly set on individual honours as well as team ones: ‘I’d love to be in contention on a Sunday at a major,’ he says. ‘I played with Rory McIlroy on Monday and we spoke about what’s required. It’s more mental now at my stage. I just need a bit more belief and a bit more mental toughness when I’m not striking it well so that I keep grinding out the scores. That’s what Rory does so well.’
‘He’s very insightful and a great role model for the game,’ says Gallacher of the world number one. ‘He’s a great ambassador for golf and it was great to bounce a few ideas off him. He’s the world number one, he’s not there by fluke so it was good to get a chat with him about performing on the biggest stages.’
They don’t come much bigger than defending your crown at the Emirates Golf Club with its breathtaking Dubai cityscape, but Gallacher laughed off any talk of pressure. ‘There’s none on me this week at all,’ says the Scot, who has the new TaylorMade R15 driver and 3-wood in his bag for the first time. ‘I’m here to enjoy it which is what I did last year and hopefully if I’m in with a chance again coming down the stretch on Sunday I’ll be able to relive those past performances and emotions and get over the line.’