Justin Rose, the world No 6, led a chorus of praise for Bradley Neil after the 21-year-old Scot overcame a similarly sticky start in the professional ranks to secure a step up to the European Tour next season.
“Absolutely brilliant,” said Rose of hearing that Neil, pictured, had closed with three-under-par 69 in the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman to secure the 15th and final card among this year’s Challenge Tour graduates.
The 2014 Amateur champion had slipped to 16th after the penultimate event and was 18th on the projected standings heading into the last round in Muscat but dug deep to card six birdies at Al Mouj Golf before holding his nerve to make a three-feet par putt at the last.
“That’s a really clutch, ballsy round,” said Rose, who has followed Neil’s career since the pair became stablemates at Excel Sports, who also represent Tiger Woods, after the Blairgowrie player turned professional in the middle of 2015.
“Paul McDonnell, who is my manager in Excel in the UK, has been my best friend since I was 11 years old. He really liked Bradley’s game and signed him. It was his first signing, so I kind of had a bit of an added incentive to pull for Bradley.”
Rose, of course, missed the cut in his first 21 consecutive events before finding his feet in the paid ranks, where he has won a major, two WGCs and played in four Ryder Cups. In his first season on the Challenge Tour, Neil made just one cut before continuing to struggle last year.
Things finally started to look up for him 12 months ago when he won a second stage event in the European Tour Qualifying School, giving him the confidence to rack up two second-place finishes on the Challenge Tour and earn around £83,000 this season.
“It’s really easy to come out and make cuts in your first year – I feel his pain there,” said Rose, laughing. “Listen, [a bad start] didn’t do me too badly. When I turned pro, I had a three-year plan, and it was going to be to spend a bit of time on the Challenge Tour, earn my stripes there.
“That’s how I thought I’d graduate through and Bradley’s following that similar path. Sometimes there’s no shortcut; you have to do the hard yards, and he’s doing it really well. He’s sticking with it.”
The 2018 European Tour campaign starts in Hong Kong two weeks on Thursday, with Neil currently sitting 11th reserve for an event that has Rose and Masters champion Sergio Garcia spearheading the field.
The Scot should definitely play in either the Australian PGA Championship or the Mauritius Open the week after and also the Joburg Open, which is the last event of the calendar year before the circuit resumes with the SA Open in January.
“This year has been fantastic,” wrote Neil in a message on social media over the weekend. “These last four weeks of golf have been exhausting and nerve-wracking but I’m delighted to have walked away from the Challenge Tour with a European Tour card. It has been an incredible journey and I can’t wait for 2018 to come around.”