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Gallacher shows eastern promise as he plots route from Dubai to Gleneagles

TO the victor, the spoils .

Stephen Gallacher with the impressive trophy he received after retaining his Omega Dubai Desert Classic title on Sunday - and propelling himself closer to a  Ryder Cup place. Picture: Francois Nel/Getty Images
Stephen Gallacher with the impressive trophy he received after retaining his Omega Dubai Desert Classic title on Sunday - and propelling himself closer to a Ryder Cup place. Picture: Francois Nel/Getty Images

. . and quite possibly a slipped disc. As Stephen Gallacher girded his loins, flexed his muscles, gulped in lungfuls of air and prepared to hoist aloft a Dubai Desert Classic trophy of quite terrifying proportions for the second year in a row, the pressing question had to be asked: just how big is his mantelpiece?

Given the sheer scale of the elaborate coffee jug that was thrust into his hands on Sunday, a grand, pompous edifice that made the Burj Al Arab look like a corrugated iron potting shed, the answer to that particular query could well be: about the same dimensions as the Hoover Dam.

As we write, Gallacher is probably grunting, groaning and heaving his latest prize along the garden path like a shuffling, puff-cheeked removal man trying to haul a chaise longue up three flights of tenement stairs without chipping the banister.

This was a big win in more ways than one for the Scot. Gallacher has been galvanised and so too have those of us tut-tutters in the media who were becoming increasingly pessimistic at the notion of there being any home representation in the European team for September's Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

Just more than a year ago, when Paul McGinley was unveiled as Europe's new team captain, the likeable Irishman was hounded into a corner by a rabid Scottish press pack and poked and prodded on the subject of the tartan army.

"I would love nothing more than to have at least one Scot in the team, but when we played in Ireland in 2006 a quarter of the team [McGinley himself, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke] were Irish," stated McGinley at the time. "So that's the challenge now for the Scottish lads: to get 25% of the team from the home country."

It was an ambitious ask and, by the end of 2013, even the prospect of just one Scot qualifying was looking about as remote as an Amazonian tribesman playing hide and seek.

At the Christmas shutdown, Gallacher, who rather frustratingly had not made any significant strides during the tour's hugely lucrative Final Series, was down in 33rd place on the qualifying points list while an out of sorts Paul Lawrie, one of the heroes of the Miracle of Medinah in 2012, was muddling on in 70th position. Martin Laird, meanwhile, had missed the first four months of points-plundering because he couldn't take up European Tour membership again until January 1, while the likes of Marc Warren and Scott Jamieson, another pair on McGinley's radar, had yet to make any serious advances.

Of course, in this game of fluctuating fortunes, the doom-mongers can quickly be put in their place. On a long qualifying road of twists and turns - and there will be plenty more to come - it only takes one good week to inject the campaign with new vigour and Gallacher's has arrived at the perfect time. With the top four on the European points list and the top five off the world list qualifying automatically for the gathering in the Glen, Gallacher is now perched 14th and ninth on those respective orders of merit. At No.37 on the world rankings, and with all the potential points-scoring benefits that being inside the top 50 brings, the former Walker Cup man now has the sturdy platform upon which he can launch a robust assault on a Ryder Cup berth.

Two years ago, it was Lawrie who was blazing a trail for the Scots. Momentum gained in the Middle East carried him all the way to Medinah and Gallacher will be hoping to follow a similar path to Perthshire. Lawrie captured the Qatar Masters title, an event he had also won before, in early February 2012 and, like a bird caught in a thermal updraft, he soared to new heights in the months that followed as he flew up the world rankings, racked up the qualifying points and set the seal on his place in the Europe team by winning the Johnnie Walker Championship.

Gallacher's relationship with the Ryder Cup - his uncle Bernard and all that - has been well-documented and Dubai offered further proof that the 39-year-old's game continues to mature and develop as the seasons pass. As he inches towards his 40s, the best years, it seems, are still to come. He revelled in the company of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy during the first two days.

His rousing 63 on Saturday, which was illuminated by a record-equalling back-nine of 28 blows, showed just what a fine player he is when things are going well. On Sunday, he demonstrated what a fine player he is when things are not going to plan with a spirited display of resilience, composure and mental fortitude to recover from a potentially ruinous start and claim the ultimate honours. It was a salvage operation that spoke volumes for his abundant qualities.

As he strives to add another Ryder Cup chapter to the family story by following in the footsteps of uncle Bernard, this particular Gallacher has upped the ante.

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