Card in sight for Irish five left alive

Five Irish golfers, Waterville’s David Higgins, Ulstermen Chris Devlin and Gareth Shaw, Dubliner Niall Kearney and Yorkshire-born Simon Thornton, will be among a group of 150 hopefuls seeking 25 places on the 2013 European Tour when the final Tour School takes place over six days at the Catalunya complex near Barcelona beginning next Saturday.

It is regarded as one of the most nerve-wracking experiences in the game, with those who fail wondering just where they go from here. Indeed, Welshman Bradley Dredge, who lost to Pádraig Harrington in a play-off for the Irish Open at Adare Manor in 2007, is wondering if he will even take up the option should he come through.

Dredge, who has played 12 consecutive years on Tour, admitted: “If I do get a card I will weigh things up as to what I’m going to do.

“It’s all about where I could be playing. It will not get me into the big money events that I am used to playing. It could be the back of beyond for not much money and I’m not sure if I want to do that. Do I retire and put the clubs to one side?”

Dredge is just one of many in the Catalunya field who has won on Tour. Others include compatriot Stephen Dodd, a champion of both the Irish and European Opens; the Swede Mathias Gronberg, who also captured the European Open at The K Club, and Nick Dougherty, who finished ahead of a star-studded field at the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews in 2007. And there are also Ryder Cup players like Paul Broadhurst, Jarmo Sandelin and Oliver Wilson seeking to restart their careers.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Peter Lawrie must be quietly counting his blessings as he prepares for this week’s €6.4m DP Dubai World Championship over the Greg Norman-designed Earth layout at Jumeirah Estates.

He went into the Hong Kong Open at the weekend in 60th and last place of those who qualify for Dubai showpiece. Considerable sums of money were at stake so the pressure was really on the Dubliner but he responded superbly to tie for fourth and pocket a cheque for €66,411, bringing his total for the year to €505,277.

That jumped him six places up the money list to 54th and saw him safely through to Dubai to play for the riches at stake.

Even if he has to settle for the smallest amount on offer in Dubai (€17,000), Lawrie will end his 10th year on tour with official earnings of close on €600,000, bringing his career total to a very tidy €5m plus.

His only career tournament success came in the 2008 Spanish Open but he has been close on several other occasions and always did enough to ensure he retained his card without any great difficulty.

How those facing the trials and tribulations of the Tour School would dearly love to be in his shoes.

Needless to say, such matters won’t impinge on Rory McIlroy’s mind as he goes in search of further riches to augment the €7.54m he has accumulated so far this year for topping the orders of merit on both sides of the Atlantic.

He is already assured of picking up at least €784,000 from the Dubai bonus pool and also has his eye on the title and that winner’s cheque of €1,046,240.

Even then, there will be a lot of money left over for the other Irish qualifiers to get their hands on; Graeme McDowell, ninth in the order of merit; Shane Lowry, 23rd; Harrington, 38th; Michael Hoey, 50th and Lawrie, 54th, in what promises to be a fascinating conclusion to the European season.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

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