Spotlight on Struggling Players as Race to Dubai Enters Final Straight
The European Tour is reaching its business end and while the spotlight falls on the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, who leads the Race to Dubai, and Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Alex Noren, who all still harbour hopes of catching him, what about the men who are looking for that one big week in order to keep their tour cards for the new season, which begins in November?
Alvaro Quiros won the Rocco Forte Open in May, but went into the British Masters in 136th place in the Race to Dubai. The win means that he has no concerns about his tour card, but other than that victory - which came from nowhere - he has missed 13 cuts.
Only the top 100 in the Race to Dubai can be assured of teeing it up next season. So who is in trouble? Well, you might be surprised by some of the names who face an anxious few weeks.
Julien Quesne (117th) was widely regarded as one of the brightest prospects in Europe when he burst upon the scene, but it has all gone horribly wrong recently. A two-time winner, he has only had one top-10 finish, at the Irish Open, and has endured 14 missed cuts. But at least he knows that one good week can still save his year.
Remember Jamie Donaldson? He is the Welsh golfer who hit that glorious wedge against Keegan Bradley that secured the Ryder Cup for Europe at Gleneagles in 2014. Back then he was riding the crest of a wave, playing in majors and WGC tournaments. He went into the week at Close House in 130th position, having broken 70 just 12 times all year.
Marcus Fraser is 132nd and Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn languishes in 135th position but has no concerns about his card as he is an honorary member of the European Tour.
Spare a thought for Damien Perrier. He has played in 24 tournaments. His total prize money? 97,000 euros. Or what about Simon Dyson, a six-time winner on the European Tour? The Englishman has struggled horribly since suffering a career-threatening wrist injury. In 25 starts he has missed the cut 16 times. His biggest single pay cheque was the 14,000 euros he earned for finishing 64th at the Irish Open, and his total earnings going into the British Masters were a paltry 53,000 euros. He is 198th on the Race to Dubai. Remember that he has to pay for travel and accommodation and also has to find the money to employ a caddie. If he gives his bagman 10% of his earnings then it means that individual has earning 5,300 euros by carrying Dyson's bag this season.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is Victor Dubuisson, of France. In full flow, he is as good as anybody, but there hasn't been much of that in 2017. The 27-year-old has seen his world ranking slump to 191 and he is 119th in the Race to Dubai. A two-time winner and former Ryder Cup player, Dubuisson is something of an enigma. The year began well enough, with a tied fourth at the Trophee Hassan. Inexplicably, however, he had only played in 13 tournaments leading up to Close House. He managed a tied 12th at the Portugal Masters, where he broke 70 in all four rounds. The thing with Dubuisson is that he is capable of coming out next week and winning, and then producing rounds of 80-80 on his next start.
Last season, Eddie Pepperell lost his card in the most heartbreaking of fashion. His final event of the season was the Portugal Masters. After opening with a 64, all he needed to do was to make the cut to retain his privileges, and he was cruising until he came to the final hole. He had a disaster, missed the cut and had to head back to tour school where, to his eternal credit, he dug deep and won back his card. It looked like he might be in trouble again this time too but then, in successive weeks, he finished fifth at the Czech Masters, third at the KLM Open and third at the Portugal Masters and headed to the British Masters in 54th place in the Race to Dubai. Instead of battling to keep his card, he can now look forward to the Final Series and the Dubai World Championship. What a difference a year makes!
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