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The sky's the limit, if Gallacher can sort out his putting woes

Unless you're bracketed with the world's most amorous adventurers – Casanova, Romeo, Cyrano de Bergerac, Alan Titchmarsh – Valentine's Day can be a period of furious anguish for the male masses.

Mournfully queuing in the all-night garage to purchase a bottle of anti-freeze and a withered bunch of carnations, that look as if they have been plucked from a hanging basket outside the Gates of Hades, is hardly one of the great romantic gestures.

Stephen Gallacher probably will have no such problems. Having recently bought his other half, Helen, a new car, the Scot was already in the good books before he won a Mercedes-Benz for a hole-in-one during his highly profitable Omega Dubai Desert campaign which earned him £164,433.

The 37-year-old's share of second place alongside Lee Westwood, in a field featuring three of the world's top four, was his highest finish since he recorded a similar result in the 2006 British Masters at The Belfry and provided further proof that the Scot is not far away from bridging his eight-year title gap.

Of course, we've been saying that for a while now. The fact that Gallacher's cv contains just a single European Tour triumph continues to baffle. Since that maiden success, in the 2004 Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, Gallacher has managed four podium finishes and five other top-10s in that time. In terms of ball striking, there are not many finer on the tour, while his application and mental approach all add to the impressive package. As ever with the Scots, it is the problem of getting the ball in the hole that continues to hinder progress.

"There are guys who have won majors who would love to strike the ball as well as he does," said the veteran Scottish swing guru Bob Torrance. "I actually think he has underachieved on the European Tour when it comes to victories. He should have won more, but he will win more."

Those words were uttered by Torrance during last summer's Open at Royal St George's and they still ring true. During the 2011 campaign, Gallacher finished 18th on the greens in regulation table but he averaged more than 30 putts per round and was down in a lowly 126th on the rankings for putts on those greens that he had found with approaches.

You don't need to remind the former Walker Cup player of the statistics, though. Gallacher has tried a host of putters and techniques in an attempt to change his fortunes on the greens. As he observed, if he can sort that area of his game out, then "the sky is the limit".

His raking putt of some 40-feet on the 13th hole of the final round on Sunday, which dropped in the very centre of the cup, galvanised his title tilt. There were chances too, at 17 and a tricky 15-footer from above the hole on the last to force a play-off and they are the ones that make the difference. Gallacher continues to knock on the door of that so far elusive second European Tour win. As each year passes, it gets harder and harder but if he can just make that final decisive step and get the monkey off his back you feel there will be far more to come.

With Gallacher sharing second, Dubai also offered further positive signs with Scott Jamieson claiming a tie for fifth to maintain the sparkling early season run of form for the home contingent.

In addition to Paul Lawrie's Qatar Masters triumph recently, there has been at least one Scot in the top-10 in all six events played on the circuit so far. Let's hope this blossoming love affair with the European Tour continues in India this week.

AND ANOTHER THING

Have a peer around these days and there are signs galore telling you what you can and can't do and what perils abound in everyday life. 'Contents of Cup May Be Hot', 'May Contain Traces of Nuts', 'Tiredness Kills', 'The End Is Nigh' . . . it's a non-stop stream of dire warnings.

In these cosseted, tut-tutting times, when every move comes with a health warning, officials of the third-tier Alps Tour have proudly announced that they have 'taken the courageous decision to uphold the reputation of the game' by becoming the first pro tour to ban smoking and the chewing of tobacco by players and caddies.

Give it time and the ban will no doubt filter through to all levels of the game. Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez, two popular figures who can often be seen waddling down the fairways wreathed in smoke, will be wheezing themselves into a lather.

As a "healthy" non-smoker, it has never bothered this correspondent whether a playing partner lights up on the course and enjoys an earthly pleasure amid the misery of triple-bogeys and missed putts. We all need something to keep the morale up. And we are in the freedom of the great outdoors after all.

They'll be banning belly putters next . . .

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