An eye-catching collection of seasoned professionals and young hopefuls have assembled at Lumine Golf Club all bidding to earn European Tour cards at the Final Stage of Qualifying School.
The top 25 and ties will play in next season’s Race to Dubai after a marathon six rounds in Tarragona, with Lumine’s Lakes and Hills courses playing host to the tournament for the first time having previously been a Second Stage venue.
No fewer than 30 European Tour winners are in the 156-man field this week, led by Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño’s haul of seven titles – a figure matched by the Spaniard’s caddie for the tournament, Alvaro Quiros.
Experienced campaigners such as Simon Dyson, Anders Hansen and Niclas Fasth – one of two former Ryder Cup players in the field along with Oliver Wilson – are hoping to prolong their careers at the top of the European game.
Kristoffer Broberg returns from a long injury lay-off to compete in Spain while at the other end of the spectrum, Gavin Moynihan will look to cap a breakthrough year with a European Tour card.
David Law could be viewed as the defending champion, having won Second Stage at Lumine 12 months ago. The Scot is aiming to end a difficult year with a good performance, having made the four-round cut but failed to earn a European Tour card for each of the last two years at Final Stage.
“I’ve probably got the most overqualified caddie here – we have 14 European Tour victories between the two of us!
“Having Alvaro on the bag, not just for being such an experienced player and knowledgeable guy but also having a friend on the bag for such an important week, where patience is going to be key, I think that’s going to help a lot and make it as fun as playing Q-School can be.
“It’s been part of my plans since the beginning of the year because I want to go back to being a European Tour member. Even though I’m mainly living and playing more in the USA, it now makes sense with the new regulations of only having to play four tournaments.
“I think it’s going to be a fun week, especially having Alvaro on the bag – it’s going to be interesting so I’m looking forward to it.”
“I’m feeling good. I’m just enjoying myself now, I’ve had a lot of injuries over the past two years so it’s good to be back and it’s fun to play golf again.
“I’m fully fit again. My left knee is still a little bit sore so I’m taking it a bit easy right now but it’s nice to be back.
“The target is to win, or to get the top 25 at least, same as for everybody. I started to play a little last week in Marbella, I’ve played two practice rounds and it’s tough to walk, but it’s just six rounds and we’ll see what happens, it feels alright.
“We’ll see where my game is this week but it feels good out there in the practice rounds. It’s important for me to remain a European Tour player so that’s the main goal.
“It’s like a normal event, it’s just two rounds more. I’ve got to try to relax, do my thing and just take it easy, then I can hopefully have a good week.”
“I’m not feeling too bad. I haven’t really played very well since I came back from wrist surgery so it’s been a case of building back up to hopefully getting back on tour properly.
“I’ve played the last couple of years on tour and not really done much good but I’m doing some good work with my fitness coach and I feel like there’s maybe a few more years left in me – I’m 40 this year and there’s not that many 40 year olds on tour any more, all these young guns who bomb it 320 are taking over the world.
“I’ll give it my best go and see what happens. I don’t really think I’ve got much pressure on me as I’ve been on tour for 18 years, so if it doesn’t happen I’ve had a good career.
“I don’t know what happens after this week. It’s been a tough few months and I’ve got a young family at home, it gets harder to leave every single week. I still enjoy the competition and I’ll tee it up tomorrow morning and I’ll still get the buzz I’ve had for all these years.
“They always say, ‘form is temporary, class is permanent,’ but the permanent is taking some finding just now! We’ll just have to see how it all goes in the next six days.”
“I’m looking forward to this week. I’ve had a break off after the Challenge Tour season and I’m feeling fresh.
“Considering it’s Final Stage, it’s a pretty relaxed week for me this week. The ranking I have from the Challenge Tour will give me a good number of European Tour starts anyway, so I can just go for it this week – if I play well, great, if I don’t it’s not the end of the world for me.
“I might take a few drivers when I normally wouldn’t, go after a few pins when I wouldn’t in a normal 72-hole tournament, so I’m looking forward to it.
“I started the year with nothing, absolutely nothing. I was at the EuroPro Q-School in March just trying to get a bit of form going, so to have had the year I’ve had is incredible really.
“I couldn’t really have asked for anything better than this year. I did well at the Irish Open and in the Alfred Dunhill Links, contended for a couple of Challenge Tour titles, but the biggest thing was I only missed two cuts – I think last year I only made about three.
“To have played a full season and been that consistent was very pleasing, and overall it’s been such a positive year that I can just look forward to this week and see it as a bonus if it all goes well – I’ve got nothing to lose so I’m going to be aggressive and see how it ends up.”
“I’ve been here a few times, played Second Stage for the last two years and the Challenge Tour were here a few years ago, so I know the course pretty well, and it’s in great condition this week.
“I’ve made it to Final Stage for the last two years and played all six rounds both times. Last year I felt like I tired a bit on the final couple of days, especially having been to Second Stage as well, so this year I’ve tried to take it a little easier and hopefully that will reflect in my play this week.
“It’s been a tough year to be honest, it’s not been great. There’s been a couple of little things going on, but it can all change pretty quickly and this would be a great week to do it.“I’ve been playing pretty well in the last few events so I’m hopeful for this week. Two years ago I missed out by two shots, last year I was going well but had a poor final day, so hopefully I can draw on those experiences this week and cope with it all a little better.”