Estanislao Goya remained at the top of the leaderboard after the fourth round of The European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage, but unlike the previous three rounds, he had company in the shape of former Walker Cup player Andy Sullivan of England at 12 under par.
The Argentine struggled to a one over par 73 on the Stadium Course at a wet and cold PGA Catalunya Resort in Spain, opening the door for Sullivan, who was third here last year, to share the lead thanks to a three under par 69.
German amateur Moritz Lampert, Frenchman Anthony Snobeck, Finn Mikko Korhonen and Englishmen Richard McEvoy and John Parry made up the chasing pack at 11 under, with Parry carding the joint-lowest round of the day on the Stadium Course, a sparkling five under par 67.
A 40-foot eagle putt at the par five 15th was the highlight of Sullivan’s round, which also featured two birdies and one bogey, and the 25 year old is hopeful of returning to The European Tour, having finished 145th in The Race to Dubai in his rookie campaign this year.
“I played very steadily today, and it’s always nice to see 40-feet putts roll in,” said Sullivan. “I’m in a good position for the rest of the week and hopefully I can build on it.
“It’s always nice to come back to a place where you’ve done well before, even if it’s not the ideal situation to be back here.
“I learned a lot last season. I don’t think I did a lot wrong, it was just a big learning curve for me. I learned a lot about myself and my golf game, so if I get my card back I’ll be doing pretty much the same things again but this time I’ll have a lot more knowledge and confidence.”
Goya did not manage to replicate the form that yielded rounds of 64, 71 and 64 over the first three days, but he was satisfied with his performance and remains confident he can regain his playing privileges, having missed out by four spots in The 2012 Race to Dubai.
“Of course I want to win any tournament, even if this week is mostly about qualification,” said the 24 year old. “Winning is always the ultimate priority and I’m doing everything I can to be on top. Winning might end up giving me a couple more opportunities next year, but I just need to finish as high up as I can.
“It was not easy today and I missed three greens on the back nine. I had a couple of bad lies and couldn’t save par. Other than that I played really well - I just didn’t hole as many putts as the first three days.
“It was very wet today so the rough and the greens were very thick. Some of the holes on the back nine were playing longer.
“I'm confident because I'm still playing very good shots and giving myself birdie chances, so I just need to keep playing the way I'm playing and take it easy.
“There are still two days to go so I'm confident. I just have to keep the same mentality and keep doing the same job that I've been doing for the past four days. The Stadium Course is tough but if I keep playing the way I'm playing I will do very well.”
Where other seasoned professionals failed, 20 year old amateur Lampert profited as he looks to cap a fine year which has featured victories in the Finnish, German and Portuguese Amateur Championships as well as an event on the satellite EPD Tour.
“I know I'm playing well and the position I am in now is great, so we’ll see what happens,” said the 2010 Junior Ryder Cup player. “I will try to stay aggressive and make birdies. You have to keep playing your game and see where you end up.”
Parry was another player to make good progress on day four, and the 2010 Vivendi Cup winner is aiming to return to the top tier having lost his card in 2011.
“I've felt better about my game as I’ve gone on,” said the 26 year old. “I don’t think it’s flawless golf but I'm doing things right and it’s getting slightly better every day, which is what you want.
“I feel more comfortable on the Stadium Course too which helps and is good going into the weekend.”
Seventy-three players qualified for the final two rounds, played over the Stadium Course, after which the top 25 and ties earn a European Tour card for 2013.
As always, there were contrasting tales of joy and woe as players moved above and below the two over par cut line. One of those celebrating was Korean Sihwan Kim, who started the day eight over par and fired a superb seven under par 63 on the Tour Course to make the cut.
Former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson was another to just keep his dreams of a return to The European Tour alive, carding a two under par 70 on the Stadium Course to make the cut by one shot.
There were some well-known names to miss out, however, as 19 European Tour winners missed the four-round cut, including Nick Dougherty, Paul Broadhurst and Rhys Davies.