Ross McGowan, runner-up to Lee Westwood at the Dubai World Championship presented by: DP World last month, could be celebrating the realisation of a dream if he has another top two finish in this week's South African Open Championship.
The 27 year old from Basildon, only 177th on the Official Golf World Rankings before he won the Madrid Masters in October, will almost certainly qualify for the Masters Tournament in April if he can repeat the brilliant display he gave in the Middle East.
Places go to the world's top 50 at the end of the year and although McGowan goes into the final counting event at 67th there are enough points at stake for him to clinch an Augusta debut.
He needs to keep an eye on two other players in the field at Pearl Valley Golf Estates - Italian Edoardo Molinari and South African Charl Schwartzel - because they are seeking the same thing and currently rank 55th and 65th respectively.
McGowan was overshadowed in Dubai by the battle between Westwood and Rory McIlroy for The Race to Dubai title, but to finish between them has done wonders for his confidence.
“Obviously a win would have been a lot better, but I gave it my all out there,” said the former English amateur champion, who now embarks on only his third full season on The European Tour.
“I think it bodes well for me for the future. I couldn't have expected this at the beginning of the year, I finished well.
“I think I had only €300,000 going into August, so to make another million since then is very pleasing.
“I think Madrid taught me a lot. I was seven shots clear there (after a Saturday 60) and it's tough to keep your concentration, but once you've done it a couple of times it's not really anything to worry about.
“I've always been fairly relaxed and I guess it's rubbing off in a good way. When I started playing golf I guess I always saw myself reaching the top of the game. It's one step at a time, just keep going past the milestones and we'll get there in the end.”
Schwartzel was runner-up to Pablo Martin at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on Sunday and will again have the Spaniard to contend with, while Dane Anders Hansen - third at Leopard Creek - is up to 46th in the rankings and all set to return to the Masters next spring.
Hansen also has the chance to become the first northern hemisphere golfer to win the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.
First prize is €158,500 and he leads Schwartzel by almost £100,000.
Defending champion, as last week, is Richard Sterne, who extended a record of only South African winners that goes back to 2002 by beating Northern Ireland's Gareth Maybin in a play-off on the same course.
|T4||ANDERSSON HED, Fredrik||SWE||18||-11|
|T6||MARTIN BENAVIDES, Pablo||ESP||18||-10|