Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Matthew Southgate  (Getty Images)
Matthew Southgate (Getty Images)

Matthew Southgate launched himself into contention for a return to The European Tour with a fine four under par 68 in the fifth round of the Qualifying School Final Stage, as his English compatriot Jason Timmis also charged up the leaderboard with a 66.

Southgate had five birdies and a bogey on the Stadium Course at PGA Catalunya Resort to move up to a tie for second place on 13 under par, four shots behind runaway leader John Parry, and if he gains one of the 25 cards on offer would put behind him a season of frustration.

The 24 year old made just one cut from his first eight events in The 2012 Race to Dubai, then returned to the Challenge Tour for the second half of the season with similarly limited success.

He appears to have tapped into a rich vein of form in Spain this week, however, with three rounds in the 60s following opening efforts of 72 and 70.

“I put myself under a lot of pressure in round one, but I’ve managed to relax a bit and realise that I’m actually quite lucky to be here, because I only got in as a reserve and have had a really bad season,” he said. “I was chuffed just to be here.

“Once I started enjoying it rather than feeling the pressure, I’ve been playing well. The game’s coming good at the right time. I’ve worked so hard on my putting this year. I’m not holing everything, but I’m holing a few, which makes a massive difference at this level. This season I seem to have hit loads of greens but holed nothing. It’s very promising and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

“It’s a strange game. At one end of the scale you’ve got Branden Grace, who was here last year and is now winning everything, then at the other end you’ve got guys who also got their card here and have really struggled. I’ll just keep working hard and trying to improve, and hopefully then the results will take care of themselves.”

Timmis, who played on the satellite Europro Tour last season – his first as a professional – moved up 42 spots thanks to a round which featured six birdies and an eagle. At four under par he is tied 26th, one place away from the 25 and ties who earn a European Tour card for 2013.

“Yesterday was a struggle, so it was great to bounce back with a low score today,” said the 24 year old. “I had four birdies in my last seven holes, including one to finish, so it was very pleasing.

“I drove the ball well today, my iron play was good and I holed a few putts – it’s simple when golf is like that. I will be hoping for the same again tomorrow.

“This has been my first year as a pro and I’ve really enjoyed. It will be a massive jump if I get on to The European Tour, but it’s very exciting. I could be on a plane to South Africa next week (for the Nelson Mandela Championship, the first event on the 2013 International Schedule).

“I’m looking forward to it. Even if I don’t do it tomorrow, I’ll have a full season on the Challenge Tour next year which will be good.”

It was also a productive day for Scotsman Callum Macaulay and England’s Sam Little, who both carded rounds of three under par 69 to move up to a tie for 22nd spot on five under par.

Italian Matteo Delpodio bounced back from a 79 in round four to sign for a 69 and move back up to 17th place on seven under, while Daniel Gaunt of Australia was also moving in the right direction, a 69 taking him into a share of 12th on eight under.

For every tale of joy, however, there is one of frustration and there will be no more disappointed player in the field than South African Tjaart Van der Walt, whose nine over par 81 left him adrift at seven over par overall.

Argentine Estanislao Goya, who led after each of the first four rounds, also endured a torrid day, slipping down to a share of 12th place on eight under par after a four over par 76.

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