Stephen Gallacher aiming to become first player to defend Dubai Desert Classic title

Stephen Gallacher won by three strokes last year for his second European tour title and went 10 under through his last 10 holes ahead of the final day this time for a 63, which gave him a two stroke lead at 16 under.

Updated: February 02, 2014 19:10 IST
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Dubai: Stephen Gallacher set out on a quest to become the first player to successfully defend the Dubai Desert Classic title on Sunday at the Emirates Golf Club's Majlis Course.

The 39-year-old Scot, who won by three strokes last year for his second European Tour title, went 10 under through his last 10 holes on Saturday for a 63, which gave him a two stroke lead at 16 under.

His company on Sunday will be formidable in the shape of former world number one Rory McIlroy, who can make it two wins and a second in his last three tournaments if he tops the leaderboard at the end of the day.

Two strokes further back are rising US player Brooks Koepka and young Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, with Edoardo Molinari of Italy, Damien McGrane of Ireland and Steve Webster of England all on 11 under.

Gallacher said familiarity helps him to play the Emirates Golf Club course, which this year celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Gulf region's premiere tournament.

"I think it's just a good-designed course where you need to shape it and (it has) doglegs both ways.

"It's just that I am quite familiar with it as well. When I come over on holiday, I tend to play it and do a bit of practice here as well."

McIlroy, who won his first tournament as a professional at Dubai in 2009, led after the first two rounds and he sounded confident he could reel in the flying Scot.

"I feel like I can catch him tomorrow," the 24-year-old Irishman said after his third round of 69.

"This is the second week in a row I'm going into the last day with a chance to win. I'm in the final group -- it's a great position to be in."

A win for either Gallacher or McIlroy would make the victor only the third player to win more than once in the Desert Classic -- after Ernie Els (1994, 2002, 2005) and Tiger Woods (2006, 2008).

Neither Els nor Woods were a factor on the final day this time around.

The South African uncharacteristically missed the cut, while Woods was languishing well down the field.

Going out almost three hours ahead of the leaders and well out of contention, the world number one once again struggled to find any real spark.

After opening with seven straight pars, he bogeyed the eighth but eased back to level with a birdie at the 10th and stayed there through 13 holes, 11 strokes off the pace.

Woods missed the secondary cut in his first tournament of the year at Torrey Pines last week and his subdued showing in Dubai will not have helped his confidence.

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