So much for the home comforts. While Stephen Gallacher is in the merry midst of the title race heading into the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in St Andrews today, the jarring contrast in fortunes between the resurgent Scot and the rest of his countrymen would make your jowls shudder.

Gallacher’s six-under 66 over a sun-soaked Old Course yesterday left him in joint third on 11-under, three shots behind the hat-trick hunting Tyrrell Hatton, who is now so used to being at the top in this event he may as well erect his own cairn at the summit of the leaderboard.

For Gallacher’s compatriots, however, it was a grisly day. From an initial entry of nine Scots in a money-soaked contest which often provides a get-out-of-jail card for those scrambling to safeguard their European Tour spots, eight of them missed the cut. The depletion of the tartan army was so withering, you half expected a concerned memo to arrive from the Ministry of Defence.

Scott Jamieson and David Drysdale, who are just inside the safety zone of the leading 110 on the money list, will be left peering over their shoulders with just two regular events remaining of the season while the likes of Marc Warren, Connor Syme and Richie Ramsay, who are all on the wrong side of the card-retaining mark, remain mired in trouble after premature departures here.

Ramsay’s late dive for the line – he birdied five of his last seven holes – was too little too late as he came up a shot shy. The nails will be getting nibbled into calloused stumps at this rate.

At 90th on the Race to Dubai, Gallacher has hardly been flying high this season but with a whopping first prize of over £609,000 on offer today – and some pretty hefty consolation cheques too - the 2004 champion could transform his year in a few strokes.

“It’s probably the best I’ve played all year and it could have been a few less to be honest,” declared Gallacher, whose round was burnished by a run of four birdies in five holes from the sixth.

“I three putted the last, I three putted from about 15 feet going for eagle at the fifth and I think I missed about six putts inside six feet. I’ve actually been playing nicely for the last two months but you just have to be patient.”

Gallacher, whose last top-10 finish on the tour was in July’s Scottish Open, will be charged with the task of hunting down frontrunner Hatton, who is aiming for his third successive win in this event. A 66 of his own on the Old Course, for a 14-under tally, meant Hatton is 61-under-par for his last 11 rounds in this championship.

The 26-year-old Ryder Cup man took flight with a cracking 3-wood approach into the fifth which spawned an eagle. “I had 260 yards to the pin, the wind was into and a bit off the left and it was probably one of the best 3-woods I’ve hit all year,” he beamed. Another eagle on the ninth, where he holed a 20-footer after driving the green, bolstered his assault.

“I’m just trying to put up the best title defence possible,” added Hatton. “So far, so good but I still have 18 holes to go … and a lot can happen in 18 holes.”

It certainly could today. The forecast of 40 mph winds led to organisers adopting the rarity of a shotgun start for the final round in an attempt to get done before the worst of the weather kicks in.

If Hatton stumbles, Australia’s Marcus Fraser, lurking just a shot behind after picking up three birdies on his last four holes, will be looking to pounce while Tommy Fleetwood, who birdied five of his opening six holes in an early offensive, is still very much in the hunt on 11-under despite leaking shots at the 16th and 17th in a 67.

“It’s little bit frustrating really,” sighed Ryder Cup hero Fleetwood as he reflected on those late spillages. “I played really good golf for most of the round and then it was just a little bit of a sick coming home.”

Brooks Koepka, who was eight-under for his round after 12 holes, played his last few in one-over in a 65 for a nine-under aggregate.