Simple For Simon And Our Fab Five
Congratulations to Simon Wakefield and all the gang who collected their Tour cards at the beast that is Qualifying School.
Itís six rounds of purgatory but Simon, Stuart Manley, Stephen Browne, Ben Mason and Ian Garbutt all survived to secure their playing privileges for next season.
Simon probably felt he should not have been there anyway after missing out by the narrowest of margins, but he was not going to let his chance slip this time and finished second.
I believe this will now be the spur he needs to go on to greater things. To survive and prosper in Spain especially after what happened to him at the end of the season says an awful lot about him and I know he is a better player than he thinks he is.
Stuart had a fantastic week after a year when he has had to put up with a swing change and various other issues. He can now develop into a great prospect and with the No.5 card is assured of plenty of starts and I expect him to retain his card.
After winning the European Amateur Championship at the turn of the century, Stephen has had a quiet time, but steadily improved during the year, won on the Challenge Tour and gained the 20th card. His success was particularly pleasing for his long-term sponsor Bernie Carroll, who has stuck by him for four years and was last seen organising the celebration party where Stephen was also expected to exercise his impressive vocal chords.
Ben came with a late run and Garby returns after a one-year absence from the Tour and both should now prosper.
Thousands of miles away in Japan, it was very pleasing to see Darren Clarke triumph for the first time this year. I would go so far as to say it was in the top three of career performances and came about thanks to the improvement in his short game.
Lee Westwood finished in second place to continue his rapid rise up the rankings and is now 23rd in the world. Tee to green he is now playing better than ever and once his play around the greens moves to a similar level, he will start winning again on a regular basis.
Graeme McDowell needed to finish 5th to get into the Tiger Woods-headed Dunlop Phoenix tournament but was disappointed to miss out by one place. It should not detract from a fantastic season and he is now within reach of the all-important top 50. With that in mind, he will probably add Hong Kong and the Dunhill event in South Africa to his schedule before the end of the year.