Fisher and Gallacher lead at Portugal Masters after tying year's low scores

Stephen Gallacher at the Portugal Masters
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Stephen Gallacher shot a bogey-free 65 Thursday to grab a share of the top spot in Portugal.
By
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

VILAMOURA, Portugal -- Former Ryder Cup star Ross Fisher and Scotland's Stephen Gallacher both matched their lowest rounds of the year on Thursday to share the lead at the Portugal Masters on the European Tour.

While Ryder Cup Captain Jose Maria Olazabal managed only a 75 on his return to action, the co-leaders shot 6-under-par 65s at Oceanico Victoria.

PORTUGAL MASTERS

This year is the sixth edition of the Portugal Masters, and every one has been played at Oceanico Victoria Golf Club.

Fisher was part of Colin Montgomerie's victorious side in Wales two years ago, but has managed only one top-five finish since that memorable week and finds himself down at 140th in the world.

"It's been a tough season, but it's nice to see my hard work pay off, and if that Ryder Cup win doesn't inspire you then nothing will," the 31-year-old Englishman said. "It was weird -- I was more nervous watching on the sofa than I was playing at Celtic Manor."

The closest he came to winning this year was the Wales Open in June. He was one behind with four to play, but was then given a one-stroke penalty for slow play and dropped to sixth.

Gallacher, meanwhile, was still in contention for the Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews on Sunday when he played the wrong ball on the 16th and ran up a quadruple-bogey 8.

Keeping a bogey off his card next time out was a fine effort by the 37-year-old, who is the nephew of ex-Ryder Cup Captain Bernard Gallacher.

"There's not much rough and the greens are unbelievably good, but when the wind got up it was pretty tough," he said.

Olazabal hooked into the lake on the 18th -- his ninth -- for a triple-bogey 7 and was outscored by playing partners Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari, the two members of his team in the field.

Kaymer scored 69, the same as defending champion Tom Lewis, and Molinari 71, the same as his brother Edoardo.

Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley, the two front-runners for Olazabal's job, had differing fortunes. Clarke finished with an 8-iron into the ninth hole for an eagle 2 and a 70, but McGinley withdrew before the start with a bad back.

Gallacher's compatriot George Murray, who like Lewis has missed his last eight cuts and -- at 163rd on the money list -- desperately needs a big week to avoid a return to the qualifying school, is alone in third following a 66.

The group one further back includes Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Ireland's Shane Lowry.