Irish trio up against it Down Under
Kevin Phelan, Gareth Maybin and Peter Lawrie need big finishes in Perth this weekend
Peter Lawrie needs to win in Perth to secure his Tour card. Photograph: Reuters
The numbers game is one which leaves absolutely no room to manoeuvre, which at least means Gareth Maybin, Kevin Phelan and Peter Lawrie – who, as things stand, won’t have a full tour card for next season – know exactly what is required in this week’s Perth International in western Australia, the final regular season event on the European Tour.
With tour cards on the line, the trio of Irish players go into the last chance saloon with their backs to the wall: Maybin, who has had a full card since 2009, must finish inside the top-seven in Perth; Phelan, in his rookie season, must secure a top-four finish on his; and Lawrie, who has held his card for 11 straight seasons, knows that it is a case of win or bust! Only a victory would be enough to get Lawrie his card again.
This is new territory for Phelan, whose third place finish in Hong Kong last weekend at least put matters into his own hands. But, for Maybin and Lawrie, fighting for survival is nothing new: in 2011, Maybin needed to make the cut in the final event (in Hong Kong) to retain his tour card and did so, eventually finishing in 117th place on the order of merit which, back then, was sufficient for a player to keep his card. The goalposts have since moved, as it were, with only the top 110 holding onto the precious ticket.
And last year, Lawrie, who had missed six straight cuts, arrived in Perth needing a top-20 finish. As it transpired, he finished 18th in the tournament and jumped to 110th in the order of merit to retain his full playing privileges. He was the last man standing, but has moved on to the same tournament this time requiring an even bigger performance.
Although only the top 110 players win full cards for next season, the presence of B rendan de Jonge who is an affiliate member and currently occupying 66th spot, means that Matthew Nixon in 111th is the player who heads into the final regular event with the target on his back as far as those in pursuit are concerned.
Phelan’s career-best finish in Hong Kong – his second top-10 of the season – means that the former Walker Cup player has a chance of retaining his card if he can carry that form with him, although there is the fallback of a second chance at the Final Stage of Qualifying School in Spain next month if it comes to that. Phelan is currently €57,000 behind Nixon and, with €59,491 on offer for fourth place in Perth, knows exactly what is needed: a top-four finish!
In other words, Phelan – like Maybin and Lawrie – will have to do it the hard way, because the field in Perth is a strong one featuring three Major champions – Charl Schwartzel, Geoff Ogilvy and Jason Dufner – and given further heat by those without worries about tour cards who are fighting to be among the 80 eligible off the money list to play in the BMW Masters, the first of the four Final Series tournaments.
Dufner is making his first competitive appearance for almost two months, having recovered from the neck injury which forced him to withdraw during his defence of the US PGA Championship at Valhalla and which forced him to miss out on the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
Pádraig Harrington – who survived the first cut in the Shriners tournament only to miss out on the second cut which came after the third round – is competing in the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island in Georgia. The Dubliner, who is currently playing on sponsor’s exemptions, has lost his tour card.
Harrington is aiming to win sufficient money through such exemptions to win back his playing privileges, although he also still has the fallback of using a one-off season’s exemption for being in the top-50 all-time money winners on the PGA Tour if that doesn’t work.