Richard Bland (Getty Images)
It will be last chance saloon this week at the ISPS Handa Perth International, where a number of players will be fighting for European Tour survival in the final regular tournament of the 2013 season.
The Tour heads down under to Lake Karrinyup Country Club before the inaugural Final Series, so it will be the last opportunity for those outside or on the bubble of 110th place in The Race to Dubai to secure their playing rights for 2014.
Only the top 110 players are assured of a full exemption for next year, so for Englishman Richard Bland, currently 109th, a good performance in Australia is crucial. A tied 26th place finish in last week’s Portugal Masters, where he shot a six under par 65 in the final round, helped his cause, and he is high on confidence as he looks to guarantee a ninth consecutive season on The European Tour.
“The last round in Portugal helped massively,” said the 40 year old, who kept his card last season by finishing in the last exempt spot. “At least I’m going there playing well. I played the last 45 holes without dropping a shot, which in the current situation is something to be very proud of.
“It’s a great course and I absolutely loved it when we played there last year. It’s a shame it’s so far away, but needs must. There were a few guys below the 110 mark who did well last week, but Sunday’s round maybe made things a little more difficult for them and a bit easier for me.
“I’ve still got a job to do in Perth, but with the way I’m playing there’s no reason why I can’t do it.
“This year has been tough. I don’t think I’ve played a week all year without an injury. I’m having an operation on my right knee at the end of the season and I had a double stress fracture in my pelvis early in the year. Since I turned 40 my body is giving up!”
Bland will be joined by many of the players in and around the magic number of 110 with James Kingston (111th), Peter Lawrie (114th) and David Higgins (115th) hoping to do enough to finish the week in the position that Bland is currently occupying.
Others such as Joel Sjöholm (150th), James Morrison (138th) and Oliver Fisher (122nd) have more to do, but with a prize fund of US$2million there is all to play for.
Further up The Race to Dubai, a number of players are heading to Perth aiming to break into the top 60, which is the cut-off for qualification for the lucrative season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
Danny Willett is in 70th place and Ross Fisher 65th, while Justin Walters will have a strong end to the season in mind after a runner-up finish in Portugal elevated him from 126th to 71st, just a fortnight after the death of his mother.