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Gleneagles hopeful Stephen Gallacher eyes main course at Italian Open

It seems the only person who is not in a lather about the Ryder Cup qualification process is the man in the merry midst of it.

Stephen Gallacher isn't putting any pressure on himself but knows a top-two finish in Turin would secure his Ryder Cup place. Picture: Getty
Stephen Gallacher isn't putting any pressure on himself but knows a top-two finish in Turin would secure his Ryder Cup place. Picture: Getty

"I'm just worried about my lunch the now," said Stephen Gallacher after a level-par 72 in the first round of the Italian Open in Turin.

Forget the mighty golfing dish that's being prepared in Perthshire, Gallacher was on a pasta mission. As the only man capable of barging his way into the final automatic qualifying spot for Team Europe in this final counting event, the peering eyes of those closely involved in the biennial beanfeast have fixed themselves on the Scot like hungry diners salivating over a menu.

A top-two finish come Sunday night would see Gallacher leap frog Graeme McDowell on the points list and earn a debut appearance in the transatlantic tussle next month.

It's not quite the last chance saloon, of course. The 39-year-old is well in the hunt to be considered for one of Paul McGinley's captain's picks, which the Irishman will announce on Tuesday.

He will be going up against the likes of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald for one of those places. Francesco Molinari could also come into that equation. McGinley admitted prior to this week's showdown that "something spectacular" from any one of his potential picks could sway his decision at the 11th hour and Molinari, who has played in the last two Ryder Cups, set himself up nicely for a grandstand finish with a six-under 66 which hoisted him into a share of the early lead yesterday.

An even bigger gate-crashing manoeuvre would be from Marc Warren. The Scot won his last event in Denmark the other week and, in the company of McGinley yesterday, he put on a decent show in front of the skipper with a three-under 69. Admittedly, it would take something absolutely spectacular from Warren, but two triumphs on the spin from a player with a winning pedigree over Gleneagles's PGA Centenary course would certainly give the European captain some food for thought.

The focus remained largely on Gallacher though. He started purposefully with two birdies on his opening three holes from the 10th but three leaked shots on his back nine hindered his progress and he had to settle for a level-par card. It's early days yet and the reigning Dubai Desert Classic champion is by no means out of the running.

"It's okay for the first day and I am only one good score away from the top of the leaderboard," said Gallacher after finishing five shots off the pace. "I know I have to finish first or second; fact, so I'm not putting any pressure on myself. Once you get out on the course you just try to birdie every hole. That's the easy part. It's when you finish you think about the Ryder Cup."

Molinari, meanwhile, began with a two-birdie salvo on his first two holes and birdied three of his last five to jump into a share of the lead with Austria's Bernd Wiesberger.

Amid the Ryder Cup frenzy, it was easy to overlook the neatly assembled 67 of Aberdeen's Richie Ramsay as he picked up five birdies in six holes from the ninth to tuck himself in among the frontrunners.

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