The pain in Spain falls mainly on inward five
GRANTOWN golf star Duncan Stewart is trying taking the positives after missing out on a return to the PGA European Tour by millimetres.
The 34-year-old looked on course to cap a remarkable fightback with just five holes to play in the sixth and final round of Qualifying School at Lumine Golf Club at Tarragona in Spain.
But a bogey five from home at the fifth – where he had a birdie the previous day – meant Stewart dropped out of the 25 and ties to win a place on the top-flight tour.
He still had four chances to find a birdie but it proved elusive with the remaining holes all parred leaving Stewart stranded one stroke off the cut.
Agonisingly, he had an eight-foot putt at the seventh but failed to make it with the ball running by the edge of the hole.
The only consolation for Stewart, who tied for 28th, is that he now has full playing rights for the PGA Challenge Tour.
Going into Q School he had secured just 80 per cent of tournaments after an inconsistent season leading to an 81st place finish on the secondary tour.
Stewart said: "Although I'm still gutted about missing my full card by just one shot, there are many positives going forward.
"I'll be the first to admit my confidence wasn't very high going to Q School at stage two but I just wanted to give it 100 per cent and hopefully I'd get through."
Stewart got off to a poor start in what was to prove to be a very low scoring Qualifying School.
His opening 72 meant that he was outside of the top 100 with the leading 75 players making the cut after four rounds.
Stewart said: "I didn't play that well in the first round but some great up and downs as well as my putting kept me in it.
"I then played better every day as the week went on.
"I really started to find my rhythm and I felt very much in control of my game.
"Q School is the most bizarre and pressure-filled week but going into the last (fourth) round I knew if I shot under par I'd go through.
"I played great golf and stuck to my plan hitting 17 out of 18 greens only missing one by a yard. It was a stress free three under and I never looked like dropping any shots."
Stewart carded 72, 69, 69 and 69 but knew that he would have to go lower again on the two remaining days to have any chance of catching the top 25.
He got off to a flying start with his 66 – one of the lowest rounds of the day leaving him knocking on the door with the final round to come.
It all looked great for Stewart with three birdies and no bogeys on his outward nine and then another birdie at the 11th saw him cross the all-important qualification line.
Stewart said of his strategy: "I had a plan of hitting as many fairways and greens as possible to give me as many birdie opportunities as possible.
"I played lovely and was minus four after 11 holes and I knew I was right around the mark. I thought -17 would definitely be fine and I was -16 which I thought was 50/50.
"I missed the fifth fairway my 14th by less than five yards which was the only fairway I missed that day.
"Nine times out of 10 it would have been fine with a shot to the green but I was stuck behind one of the trees that were scattered about every 10 yards and hit to chip out side ways which resulted in a bogey.
"I had played the last four holes very well over the course of the week so I knew I still had a good chance. I gave myself a couple of outside chances on the sixth and eighth but I hit a great seven iron on the seventh to eight feet.
"It was a tricky putt across the slope and it just caught the edge of the hole and stayed out. I then hit a very average wedge to my last hole to 20 to 24 feet but it was still a chance.
"I knew I had to make it to finish top 25 but it just slide by the hole.
"I can safely say it's one of the worst feelings I've had on a golf course walking off that green knowing I was going to miss by a shot.
"Unfortunately that's the nature of Q School and although I'm very disappointed there are a lot of positives to take from the two weeks going forward.
"I've got my full status back on the Challenge Tour and will get some starts on the European Tour starting in Australia at the Aussie PGA."
Alejandro Cañizares and Zander Lombard shared the spoils on top of the leaderboard at the conclusion of this year's Qualifying School Final Stage as 27 players earned European Tour cards.
Following six rounds at Lumine Golf Club, South Africa's Lombard and Spain's Cañizares could not be separated on 24 under par, and as is customary in the case of a tie in the event, the duo were crowned joint winners with no play-off taking place.
On a day of high drama in Tarragona several players made big moves to secure their playing privileges on the European Tour for 2019.
Italy's Filippo Bergamaschi birdied five of his closing eight holes to make the top 25 on the number.
Three-time European Tour winner Scot Marc Warren bounced back from a bogey on the 17th with a closing birdie to take the 19th card, while Norwegian Kristoffer Reitan – the only amateur to make the cut this year – also squeezed through after a final round of 72.
Former Amateur Champion Scott Gregory, who hit the headlines for shooting 92 in the opening round of the US Open five months ago, claimed the 12th card after coming through all three stages of Q School this year – one of seven players to achieve the feat this season.
Warren said afterwards: "It is the first time I have been in contention for a card and I really underestimated how tough it is.
"You have no idea what you need to do and you have try and keep moving forward while trying not to make mistakes at the same time.
"It's not a pleasant way to play golf but obviously there is a reward at the end of it."