Monday, November 30, 2009

O'Hara, Drummond, Gallacher look safe

to beat fourth-round cut in Spain

By Nick Rodger
Scott Drummond produced a late rally at PGA Catalunya near Girona in North-east Spain to keep his bid for an instant return to the European Tour on track in the third round of the Final Qualifying School.
The former PGA champion birdied his closing two holes in a battling one-under 69 on the Tour course to sit just outside the card-winning top 30 with a five-under 207, nine behind halfway leaders, Simon Khan and Charlie Ford, who are locked on 198.
Since he triumphed in the European circuit's flagship event at Wentworth in 2004, Drummond's career has nose-dived, but the 35-year-old is showing signs that he is ready to emerge from the golfing wilderness. His earnings of more than £205,500 in 2009 were almost double the amount he had gathered in the three previous seasons put together and, despite losing his tour card last month having finished 128th on the rankings, the Devon-based Scot is confident of a return to the top table.
"I felt I was playing well enough to avoid coming to the tour school but I just didn't do enough in my final events," said Drummond, whose late brace of birdies repaired the damage caused by four dropped shots at the start of his back nine.
"It has been a tough spell but the hard work I've done over the past 12 months is starting to come together and I'm happy with the way my game is going. I lost my rhythm for a couple of holes today with those dropped shots but the birdies were a nice way to finish it off."
Motherwell's Steven O'Hara leads the Scottish challenge after a two-under 68 left him tied 22nd on a six-under 206 while former Dunhill Links champion Stephen Gallacher holed his second shot from 40 yards at the sixth in a 68 for a four-under 208.
Andrew Oldcorn, the 2001 PGA champion, racked up 35 putts in a damaging one-over 71 as he dropped back with a one-under 211. "It was one of the worst putting displays I've had and it was a disgrace," seethed Oldcorn. "It was a snapshot of my career over the last four years and if you can't putt, you can't expect to compete."
Andrew Coltart, the former Ryder Cup player, joined Oldcorn on the 211 mark with Fife's George Murray a shot back on 212 after a spirited three-under 69 on the longer Stadium course.
The field will be cut to the leading 70 and ties after Tuesday's fourth round.
Callum Macaulay, joint 90th on 214, Greig Hutcheon and Jamie McLeary, joint 97th on 215, have that proverbial mountain to climb and really need an outstanding fourth-round score to keep them in the hunt.
For Eric Ramsay, joint 125th on 219, and Alan McLean, joint 133rd on 220, it looks a lost cause.

Still an England 1-2-3 at the top of the leaderboard in Spain

English pair Charlie Ford and Simon Khan are locked at the top of the leaderboard at the halfway mark of The European Tour Qualifying School after matching third rounds of 67 in Spain. The joint overnight leaders are one stroke clear of compatriot Jamie Elson on 14 under par after taking advantage of a day perfectly suited to low scoring at PGA Catalunya Resort in Girona.
Both players reached the turn one under par for their round after two birdies each and one bogey, Ford’s coming on the 14th hole and Khan’s on the 15th. Ford edged clear when he picked up a shot on the third hole – his 12th on the Tour Course – before both he and Khan birdied the seventh hole.
Leicester's Ford then bogeyed the eighth hole but both players ended their rounds on a high with birdies on the ninth hole to share the lead ahead of Elson, who closed the gap to one shot with a round of 66.
Ford is trying to win a European Tour card for the first time having recently returned from the United States, where he studied at the University of Tennessee. The 24 year old only joined the professional ranks with a handicap of plus four just before the First Stage but, after another solid round, he appears well positioned to graduate at the first attempt.
“I didn’t play quite as well as I did yesterday, it was just one of those days where I didn’t hit a lot of great numbers and I had to be more conservative.” he said. “I was pretty steady though and happy with the round.
“It helped playing with Simon and Jamie because you’re kind of feeding off each other a bit. Everyone’s pretty happy with their game so you see a lot of good shots and birdies and the putts were going in, so it definitely helps. I enjoyed playing with them today, it was good.
“I just had a real solid day and didn’t really hit any poor shots, just kept everything in play and hardly missed a green all day – I just missed one or two so it was pretty stress-free really. At the start of the day I’d have definitely taken it.
“It’s definitely a new experience playing six stroke-play rounds but it’s just another tournament and, although it feels like I’ve been here a long time, we’re still only halfway.”
The more experienced Khan, who won the Celtic Manor Wales Open in 2004, is visiting the Qualifying School for the ninth time and is looking for his third graduation, following successful visits in 2001 and 2002. He said not forcing his game was the key to his round and, ultimately, success at the Qualifying School.
“Overall I’m very happy, because I managed to stay patient,” said the 37 year old. “I only made one bogey on the back nine, which was my front nine. I hit it in the water on the 15th hole, which was probably my only bad shot of the day, and I got heavily punished for it. I wouldn’t say I really ripped it today, but I’ve hit a lot of fairways and greens.
“All three of us were probably a little bit tentative with our putting – maybe the overnight rain might’ve slowed the greens up a touch. For whatever reason, we didn’t really get the ball running at the hole at the start of the round so I probably didn’t pick up as many shots as I would’ve liked, but I kept going after the turn, and in the end I got my rewards with a couple of birdies. So I was pleased with how I managed to stay patient.
“There’s still a long way to go – I said to myself this morning that there are still four rounds left, so forget about the fact that you’re tied for the lead. You’ve just got to go out there and play to the best of your ability – that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Spain’s Alejandro Cañizares boosted his chances of gaining a European Tour card for 2010 with a superb nine under par, bogey-free round of 61 on the par 70 Tour Course which included seven birdies and an eagle on the 10th hole as he came back in just 29 shots.
That round, which was just one stroke outside the lowest of the week so far set by Julien Guerrier on the first day, moved the Spaniard up to a share of fourth place on ten under par, four shots off the pace, along with Marco Ruiz of Paraguay who carded a 63.
Frenchman Michael Lorenzo-Vera, the 2007 European Challenge Tour winner, is a shot further back after a 64, as Michiel Bothma of South Africa, Wales’ Stuart Manley, Jarmo Sandelin of Sweden and Sam Walker of England.
There will be a cut after the fourth round when the leading 70 players and ties will go on to play over PGA Catalunya Resort's Stadium Course for the final two rounds. The leading 30 players and ties at the end of the sixth round will secure cards for the 2010 European Tour International Schedule.
198 Charlie Ford (Eng) 67 64 67, Simon Khan (Eng) 68 63 67.
199 Jamie Elson (Eng) 68 65 66
202 Alejandro Canizares (Spa) 74 67 61, Marco Ruiz (Par) 71 68 63, Jarmo Sandelin (Swe) 66 69 67.
203 Michiel Bothma (SAf) 74 64 65, Michael Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 69 70 64, Stuart Manley (Wal) 66 72 65, Sam Walker (Eng) 70 64 69.
Selected scores:
205 Philip Archer (Eng) 68 70 67, James Ruth (Eng) 64 75 66.
206 Sam Hutsby (Eng) 69 72 65, Gary Murphy (Ire) 69 67 70, Steven O'Hara (Sco) 68 70 68, Lee Slattery (Eng) 65 74 67 (jt 22nd).
207 Scott Drummond (Sco) 69 69 69 (jt 33rd).
208 Stephen Gallacher (Sco) 68 72 68, Niall Kearney (Ire) 72 68 68, Miles Tunnicliff (Eng) 65 73 70 (jt 39th).
211 Andrew Coltart (Sco) 71 71 69, Andrew Oldcorn (Sco) 72 68 71 (jt 67th).
212 George Murray (Sco) 73 70 69 (jt 77th).
214 Callum Macaulay (Sco) 70 73 71 (jt 90th).
215 Greig Hutcheon (Sco) 73 72 70, Jamie McLeary (Sco) 72 74 69 (jt 97th).
219 Eric Ramsay 72 73 74 (jt 125th).
220 Andrew McLean (Sco) 76 71 73 (jt 133rd).



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