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Gallacher relishes a taste of matchplay after Dubai feast

It's easy to become bloated on golf's staple diet of 72-hole strokeplay slug-athons, so when the old art of man-to-man combat is dished up as a break from the norm, most observers lick their lips with mouth-watering relish.

The WGC Accenture Matchplay Championship in Arizona boasts a prize fund of £5.4m, but it's not enough to persuade Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or Adam Scott to compete.

The sponsors may be shaking their heads and tut-tutting, but you won't hear any grumbles from Stephen Gallacher. His first-round encounter with former Open champion Ernie Els tomorrow is the starter on a tasty all-American menu over the next few weeks which could have a major bearing on his Ryder Cup ambitions.

His win in the Dubai Desert Classic recently, which propelled him into the world's top 40, has opened all sorts of lucrative doors.

After matchplay affairs this week, Gallacher will compete in the Honda Classic and the WGC Cadillac Championship.

"An invitation to the Honda Classic has made this US trip worthwhile and there's a chance he could also play in The Players Championship in May," said Gallacher's manager Iain Stoddart, who has been rubbing his hands gleefully in the wake of his star client's latest success.

Stoddart said: "There's been a lot of activity following Stevie's win in Dubai. He already has a substantial portfolio of sponsorships. He has space for only one or one-and-a-half more. He's nearly sold out."

Having revelled in the company of Woods and Rory McIlroy during that successful Dubai campaign, Gallacher is now looking forward to pitting his matchplay skills against some of the game's leading lights.

"The Dubai week was the best in my career," said Gallacher, who is one of 33 European Tour players in the 64-man field for the matchplay showpiece this week. "Playing alongside Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy has given me a lot of confidence. You know now you can play well in such great company and it makes you feel like you belong at that high level."

Following his American adventure, Gallacher will head to the Far East where he will get another opportunity to sharpen his matchplay claws as part of Miguel Angel Jimenez's European team in the EurAsia Cup.

Gallacher said: "It's more team matchplay experience, although I'm putting the Ryder Cup well to the back of my mind at the moment."

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