(Reuters) - Stephen Gallacher produced a sparkling late rush of birdies on Friday to resuscitate his chances of earning an automatic Ryder Cup place at the final points-counting event, the Italian Open in Turin.
The 39-year-old Scot was one of the late starters and began the second round trailing South African pacesetter Hennie Otto, who was already in the clubhouse, by 15 strokes.
Gallacher, who can displace world number 16 Graeme McDowell in the top nine automatic qualifying spots for Europe's Ryder Cup team by finishing in the top two in Turin, opened up with an eagle at the first hole and a birdie at the fifth.
He then suffered a body blow by taking a double bogey at the sixth before staging a spectacular fightback with a six-under-par inward nine of 30 strokes.
"When you are 15 behind the guy in the lead and 12 behind second place knowing you need to win or finish second it's a strange feeling," Gallacher said after returning a seven-under 65 for a tally of 137 to close within eight shots of Otto."I knew I had to go low at some stage and it was nice to get a run going on the back nine.
"I didn't watch any of Hennie's round," he told reporters. "I kind of thought 'my goodness' but there are two rounds to go and a lot can happen in golf. As long as I have a chance going into the last round I will be delighted."
The 38-year-old Otto crammed an eagle and nine birdies into a 10-under 62 to lead the way with a 15-under total of 129, three ahead of Austrian Bernd Wiesberger (66) and six in front of third-placed Englishman Ross Fisher (66).
"I like the course here," said 2006 Italian Open champion Otto. "If you win a tournament in one country you tend to get good feelings when you return there even if it's to a different course.
"It would be nice to win but I don't want to hurt anyone's Ryder Cup chances. I can't play in it but there are a few guys here that I would hope can get in the team."
Joint overnight leader Francesco Molinari, who has played in the last two editions of the biennial team event and is hoping to receive one of Europe captain Paul McGinley's three wildcard picks on Tuesday, could only manage a level-par 72 for 138.
Holders Europe meet the United States in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, Scotland from Sept. 26-28.
(Writing by Tony Jimenez, editing by Ken Ferris)