Mikael Lundberg put himself in prime position to claim a third consecutive card at The European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage after surging up the leaderboard with a flawless 66 in the fifth round at PGA Catalunya Resort.
The 40 year old Swede, who retained his European Tour playing privileges with strong Final Stage performances in 2011 and 2012, fired six birdies on the Stadium Course on Thursday to move up 31 places into a share of fifth with one round to go in Girona.
Looking again for the top 25 finish which would guarantee a place on the top table of European golf in 2014 come the end of this year’s marathon examination – which will culminate on Friday in north-eastern Spain – Lundberg’s six under par effort was the second lowest of the day, after tournament leader Carlos Del Moral.
The Swede believes an improvement in his putting and a new secret psychological approach proved key to his fine display.
“I’ve really been playing well all week from tee to green but my short game has been letting me down,” said two-time European Tour winner Lundberg, who finished 168th in The 2013 Race Dubai.
“Yesterday I missed some really short, easy putts so I practiced a little bit yesterday and tried to change my mental approach a bit. What that was I won’t tell you because I don’t want to jinx it and it worked a lot today.
“I saved par with a 17 foot putt at the second then birdied the next so that was big in kick-starting the momentum, and then a 25 foot birdie putt at the seventh really got me going.
“I really like the Stadium Course, way more than the other one, which is strange because everyone else seems to be the opposite. So I’m glad this is the one we get to play four rounds on.
“There’s a lot of patience involved in this week because it’s a long week and you have to grind it out. Hopefully all my years here have gained me some experience and that will pay off at the end of tomorrow.”
England’s James Heath was another to make a positive move at PGA Catalunya on the penultimate day. After starting the day two shots outside the all-important top 25 and ties that will gain a coveted place on The 2014 Race to Dubai come the conclusion of the sixth round, the Londoner made four birdies and just the one bogey to climb 19 places into a share of 22nd on eight under par.
“It’s been a good week so far after a lot of golf in the build-up,” said Heath, who won one of the four Second Stage qualifying events, at Las Colinas, earlier this month. “The win there was great for my confidence and to even make the cut is brilliant as I didn’t even have any category on the Challenge Tour before this.
“To know I have somewhere to play next year, regardless of what happened over the final two rounds, helped take the pressure off a bit.
“In the first four rounds I was feeling very conservative, which was my game-plan this week anyway, but I guess that knowledge helped me be a bit freer on the course.”
Meanwhile, Adrien Saddier further solidified his bid for a maiden European Tour season after a five under par 67 propelled the talented young Frenchman into a share of fifth place, while Denmark’s Andreas Harto (69) was another to move from outside the card positions into a tie for 18th place with one round to come.
The news was not so good for two-time European Tour winner Richard Finch, however, as the Englishman carded a three over par 75 to drop 26 places down the leaderboard into a share of 51st.
With one more round yet to come across the Stadium Course at PGA Catalunya Resort, though, the prospect of more agony and ecstasy remains for the 71 Qualifying School gladiators.